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The Board of Education, Kewanee School District 229 v. The Regional Board of School Trustees

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

September 4, 2019

THE BOARD OF EDUCATION, KEWANEE SCHOOL DISTRICT 229, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
THE REGIONAL BOARD OF SCHOOL TRUSTEES, BUREAU, HENRY AND STARK COUNTIES; ANGIE ZARVELL, Regional Superintendent of Schools; JEREMY S. HELTON, KATIE MARIE HELTON, CHAD J. JOOS, JOANNA R. JOOS, CAROL S. KERSEY, KEVIN W. ROSE, LAURA M. ROSE, CONNIE SUE STETSON, MARK J. STETSON and MICHAEL J. STETSON, in Their Capacities as Attorneys-in-Fact; CONNIE SUE STETSON, Individually; LAURA M. ROSE, Individually; STEVEN ENDRESS, Superintendent of Bureau Valley School District 340; and THE BUREAU VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT 340, Defendants Connie Sue Stetson and Laura M. Rose, Defendants-Appellants.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Henry County, Illinois. Circuit No. 16-MR-73 The Honorable Terence M. Patton, Judge, presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant: Jacob J. Frost, of Spring Valley, for appellants.

          Attorneys for Appellee: Allen Wall, Caitlyn R. Culbertson, and Scott E. Nemanich, of Klein, Thorpe & Jenkins, Ltd., of Chicago, for appellee.

          McDADE JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Schmidt and Justice Lytton concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          McDADE JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Defendants Jeremy S. Helton, Katie Marie Helton, Chad J. Joos, Joanna R. Joos, Carol S. Kersey, Kevin W. Rose, Laura M. Rose, Connie Sue Stetson, Mark J. Stetson, and Michael J. Stetson (collectively, the petitioner defendants) filed a petition to detach 2010 acres of Kewanee Community Unit School District 229's (District 229) boundary and annex it to Bureau Valley Community Unit School District 340 (District 340). In October 2015, a hearing on the petition was held, and defendant, the Regional Board of School Trustees, Bureau, Henry and Stark Counties (Board), issued a denial of the petition. Defendants Connie and Laura (collectively, the individual defendants) submitted a petition for rehearing and placed a notice of public hearing in the local newspaper. In December 2015, the Board granted the petition for rehearing. In January 2016, a rehearing was held, and District 229 filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that the Board lacked jurisdiction to review the petition for rehearing, which the Board denied. Ultimately, the Board granted the detachment petition despite District 229's objections. In March 2016, District 229 filed a complaint for administrative review. The trial court found that it could not review the Board's decision on the petition for rehearing because it failed to keep a record of the proceedings in accordance with the Administrative Review Law (735 ILCS 5/3-101 et seq. (West 2016)) and reversed the Board's grant of the petition for detachment. The individual defendants filed a motion for vacation or modification of judgment, which the trial court denied. The individual defendants appealed, and we affirm.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 The petitioner defendants and two other individuals filed a petition for school district boundary change to detach 2010 acres of land from District 229 and annex it to District 340. All 12 individuals were registered voters and residents in District 229. In compliance with statutory requirement, the petition identified a "committee of [10]" of the 12 individuals to act for the petitioners. Before a hearing on the petition occurred, two of the petitioner defendants moved outside of District 229.

         ¶ 4 In October 2015, a hearing was held, which Connie, Michael, Laura, and Carol attended. The Board voted to deny the petition for detachment.

         ¶ 5 Before the Board issued its written decision, the individual defendants submitted a petition for rehearing. In November 2015, the Board issued a written order denying this initial petition for rehearing.

         ¶ 6 Subsequently, the individual defendants submitted a second petition for rehearing, alleging that (1) counsel had rendered ineffective assistance, (2) the Board's denial of the detachment petition based on the individual defendants' failure to provide notice to property owners was error because notice was not statutorily required, and (3) the individual defendants were not statutorily required to obtain signatures from all owners in the territory proposed to be detached. A notice of public hearing on the request for rehearing was published in the newspaper. The notice stated:

"NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING
Notice is hereby given that the Regional Board of School Trustees for Bureau, Henry, and Stark Counties will conduct a public meeting on Wednesday, December 9, 2015 commencing at 1:00 p.m. The purpose of the meeting is to consider a request for a rehearing. The meeting will be held at Regional Office of Education, 107 S. State Street, Atkinson, Illinois."

         District 229 claims that its superintendent, Dr. Chris Sullens, did not receive notice of the public hearing until he discovered the notice in the newspaper three days before the scheduled public meeting date.

         ¶ 7 In December 2015, a hearing on whether to grant the second petition and schedule a new detachment hearing was held. Minutes were taken at the hearing, which showed that Connie had testified in support of a rehearing, that District 229 testified in opposition to rehearing, and that the Board had voted to grant the rehearing.

         ¶ 8 In January 2016, a new hearing on detachment was convened. District 229 challenged the Board's jurisdiction to engage in the new hearing claiming there was no evidence that the individual defendants had requested rehearing within the time period prescribed in section 7-6(n) of the School Code (105 ILCS 5/7-6(n) (West 2016)). After the Board denied that motion to dismiss, District 229 raised oral objections, alleging that ...


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