Supreme Court Summaries

Opinion filed September 7, 2012


 

Jackson v. Board of Election Commissioners, 2012 IL 111928

Appellate citation: 407 Ill. App. 3d 837.

 

 

      JUSTICE KARMEIER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

      Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Thomas, Garman, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

      Justice Freeman concurred in part and dissented in part, with opinion, joined by Justice Burke.

 

      Carmelita Earls filed nomination papers for alderman of the 28th Ward of the City of Chicago on November 22, 2010. The general municipal election was to take place on February 22, 2011. An objector, Eileen Jackson, complained to the board of election commissioners of the City of Chicago that, among other things, Earls and her husband, who were joint owners, were claiming homeowner property tax exemptions for multiple properties other than the one in which they resided. These exemptions had been applied for by the husband. A hearing was held which looked into the Municipal Code provision stating that: “A person is not eligible for an elective municipal office if that person is in arrears in the payment of a tax or other indebtedness due to the municipality.” Earls had applied for and received a statement of what she owed to the city. It documented that, as of November 17, 2010, she had no outstanding debt for parking, water, administrative hearings, inspection fees, cost recovery, and tax/licensing. After the exemptions were challenged, the extra ones were waived, and a payment was made to the county treasurer.

      The hearing officer, and later the board, were of the view that additional property taxes owed because of unauthorized homeowner exemptions were not the types of debts which could, under the statute, mandate ineligibility for municipal office. Despite the objector’s allegations, the board found Earls eligible and the circuit court of Cook County confirmed that decision on judicial review.

      The appellate court reversed the circuit court’s judgment on Friday, February 18, the last business day prior to the February 22 municipal election, and directed that Earls’ name be excluded or removed from the ballot for the February 2011 municipal election. The appellate court further provided that if time constraints would preclude the board of elections from physically removing Earls’ name from the ballot, voters taking ballots in the 28th Ward were to be given a written notice that Earls had been found disqualified to run, that she was no longer a candidate, and that votes cast for her would not be counted. The appellate court’s opinion was based on its view that although property taxes are collected by the county, portions thereof are remitted to the city, and therefore Earls “was in arrears on her taxes to the city at the time she filed her nominating papers” and thus ineligible to run for alderman under section 3.1-10-5(b) of the Illinois Municipal Code.

      At the election which took place, Jason Ervin, the appointed incumbent, won the election. Earls appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. Jackson contended that the cause could be considered moot because the election is over, but the supreme court addressed the issue as a matter of public interest that may arise again.

       In this decision, the court explained that, under the Illinois system of property taxation, the county collector (or other local collection authority) receives tax payments on behalf of various taxing districts and redistributes the monies to those districts. In this case, Earls’ property taxes were payable and due only to the county collector and not the City of Chicago. The election board and the circuit court had ruled correctly, and the appellate court was reversed. However, the supreme court deemed that any request on the part of Earls for a new election had been forfeited for failure to raise this issue in her petition for leave to appeal.