A number of local business have filed suit against the City of Crystal Lake claiming that its Council didn’t have enough people voting in favor of the ordinance it passed in December of 2013.
The plaintiffs cite a state law that says,
The passages of all ordinances for whatever purpose and of any resolution or motion (I) to create any liability against the a city or (ii) for the expenditure or appropriation of its money shall require the concurrence of a majority of all members then holding office on the city council, including the mayor, unless otherwise expressly provided by this Code or or any other Act governing the passage of any ordinance, resolution or motion. Where the council consists of an odd number of aldermen, however, the vote of the majority of the aldermen shall be sufficient to pass an ordinance. (Emphasis added.)
The tax rate objection goes on to point out that only three voted for the budget levy and only two of them were by aldermen.
The vote was 2-2 with Mayor Aaron Shepley breaking the tie.
Council members Ellen Brady-Mueller and Cathy Ferguson voted, “Yes.”
Councilmen Ralph Dawson and Jeff Thorsen voted against the measure.
Mayor Aaron Shepley broke the tie by voting in the affirmative.
The question springs to my mind whether “alderman” means the same thing as “council member,” but I guess that’s something that Judge Michael Caldwell will soon rule upon.
The contention of the property owners is that four votes were required to authorize the collection of real estate taxes last year.
The suit is against all parts of the city levy, including the fire department and library.
In all, those suing say that 13.28% of their tax bills.
That’s what St. Charles attorney for the plaintiffs Timothy Dwyer of St. Charles writs.
Take a look at the businesses listed below, many of which you will recognize:
Representing the City of Crystal Lake is Evanston lawyer Robert Pickrell of the Victor Filippini Law Firm.
A summary of the city’s case is included in its response to the suit:
“Obviously, the source of a municipality’s authority and its form of government are critical facts when determining the powers of a governmental unit and how such powers can be exercised.”
Crystal Lake’s defense argues that material issues about facts are in contention and that a directed verdict—what is being requested by the property owners–cannot be rendered in such a situation.
Crystal Lake goes on to argue that the entire case should be dismissed, not only as a matter of law, but also because the city is a Home Rule Unit and, as such, can establish its own voting requirements.
Those requirements, quoted in the court document, say that a majority of the members sonstitutes a quorum and that items concerning money have to be passed “without the affirmative vote of the elected members.”
With five present and three voting for the ordinance, the city’s attorney’s argues that only a majority of that number is required for passage, according to Robert’s Rules of Order, under which the council operates.
In other words, an absolute majority of the council’s members is not required.
Similar to the hanging chad punch card voting case, the argument is made that intent is key.
Because no objection was made at the meeting that a majority of the members did not vote for the measure and no objection was made when the minutes of the meeting were approved, the argument is made that legislative intent was to pass the ordinance.