Recent Court and Agency Decisions
District Organization and Operation
Spending working cash funds
Lutkauskas v. Ricker, 2013 IL App (1st) 121112, --- N.E.2d --- (9/30/13).
Taxpayers brought actions against school district employees, the district’s accountant, and district school board members (collectively “defendants”). They alleged the defendants engaged in or permitted improper spending of money from the district’s working cash fund and they sought to (a) recover the money and (b) impose criminal penalties, including an order requiring the board members to forfeit their offices.
The court found that:
(a) The taxpayers could not recover a monetary award from the defendants because the taxpayers did not allege that the money transferred from the working cash fund was put toward an improper purpose forbidden by law. All monies were spent on legitimate school expenses, and the school board eventually effected a permanent transfer of the money by passing resolutions to abate and/or abolish the working cash fund.
(b) The taxpayers are not authorized under the law to seek criminal penalties or forfeiture of office (only the State of Illinois may impose such penalties under this law). The law does not authorize a civil suit to recover vast sums of money personally from district defendants for the alleged violation of the working cash provisions of the law when there are no allegations of monies being used for anything other than legitimate school expenditures.
Posted date: 12/04/2013
Board of Educ. of Roxana Community School Dist. No. 1 v. Pollution Control Bd., --- N.E.2d ---, 2013 IL 115473 (November 21, 2013).
[NOTE: This appeal arises from the same underlying facts where Roxana Comm. Unit School Dist. No. 1 (RCUSD) asked for and was granted an injunction against the Illinois Pollution Control Board. The injunction required the PCB to (1) stop violating the OMA and (2) hold all of its future meetings in public pending the outcome of the trial on the allegations by RCUSD that PCB violated FOIA and OMA. See Roxana CUSD #1 v. WRB Refining, LP and EPA, Pollution Control Board & Dept. of Revenue, Ill. App. 4th 120331 (2012) (available in RC&AD archives) and Roxana Community Unit School Dist. No. 1 v. Environmental Protection Agency, --- N.E.2d ---, 2013 IL App (4th) 120825 (November 14, 2013) (available in the RC&AD District Organization and Operation section).]
In this appeal, the RCUSD asked the Illinois Supreme Court to review an appellate court decision. The appellate court found that it did not have jurisdiction (authority) to hear an appeal that was filed by the RCUSD. Using a provision in the Ill. Environmental Protection Act, RCUSD appealed directly to the appellate court (as opposed to the circuit court). RCUSD appealed the Pollution Control Board’s order denying its petitions to intervene in proceedings before the Pollution Control Board. The proceedings involved whether or not to certify a facility as a “pollution control facility.” The Illinois Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court. It found that RCUSD did not qualify or assert itself under any of the categories listed in the Ill. Environmental Protection Act, which are authorized to appeal a Pollution Control Board decision directly to an appellate court.
Posted date: 12/3/2013
Public bodies exceeding their constitutional and/or statutory authority
Peraica v. Riverside-Brookfield High School District No. 208, 2013 IL App (1st) 122351 (10/31/2013).
A school district placed a referendum on the ballot seeking to increase the school’s property tax limiting rate. The school district engaged in a number of activities to encourage voters to support the referendum, including hosting a student rally, producing a television program, mailing referendum literature, allowing teachers to blog on the subject, and providing school space to pro-referendum groups.
Although the referendum was defeated, Mr. Peraica and Taxpayers United of America (TUA) filed suit against the school district. The group claimed that the school district had deprived them of the right to free speech under the first amendment to the United States Constitution, because they were “forced to struggle against the public funds” in their opposition to the referendum. The taxpayer group alleged that the school deprived them of a constitutional right under the appearance of authority, in violation of section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act.
The Illinois Fourth Division appellate court agreed with the trial court’s dismissal of the claims in favor of the school district.
NOTE: Two of the group’s claims did not reach appeal:
1. Mr. Peraica and TUA had claimed that the school violated the Property Tax Code by understating the amount of the tax increase.
2. Mr. Peraica and TUA had alleged that the school violated section 9-25.1 of the Illinois Election Code, which says that schools cannot use public funds in support of a proposition. The court replied that claims under the Election Code are properly made to the Board of Elections.
Referendums are complicated and school officials should always consult the board attorney throughout the process.
Posted date: 11/18/2013
Brennan McLoughlin, IASB Law Clerk
The Board of Education of Du Page High School District 88 v. Pollastrini, 2013 IL App (2d) 120460 (August 29, 2013).
A subdivision petitioned to be detached from its current school district and annexed to another school district. However, sixteen of the relevant signatures deviated from the signatures recorded with the county election authority. These sixteen signatures were crucial to the eligibility of the petition. The Board granted the petition, but the Illinois circuit court reversed that decision and the appellate court agreed.
The circuit court disagreed with the Board and determined that the relevant sixteen signatures did not substantially comply with the statute. The court found that using initials for either the first or last name, omitting the first name, or writing in print rather than cursive made the signatures substantially noncompliant. Neither the ability to identify the voter by the signature, nor the voter’s willingness to testify, substantially satisfy the statute’s requirement that the signatures match the voting record.
Posted date: 10/18/2013
Brennan McLoughlin, IASB Law Clerk
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