Brooks v. MacLean, 17,289.

CourtSupreme Court of Nebraska
Writing for the CourtLETTON
Citation95 Neb. 16,144 N.W. 1067
Docket NumberNo. 17,289.,17,289.
Decision Date07 January 1914

95 Neb. 16
144 N.W. 1067


No. 17,289.

Supreme Court of Nebraska.

Jan. 7, 1914.

[144 N.W. 1067]

Syllabus by the Court.

The failure of a county clerk to make a record of a call for a special meeting of the county board does not invalidate such call, where it was in fact made and due notice given; the record of the county board showing a meeting pursuant thereto.

Two members of a county board composed of three members may call a special election to vote on a proposition to issue bonds, though the other member signed a petition for the election.

The statute, requiring that “a petition signed by not less than fifty freeholders” of the precinct shall be presented to the county board for the purpose of calling an election to vote bonds, does not mean that the petitioners shall be residents of such precinct. Comp. St. 1911, c. 45, § 14.

In a matter of public concern the court will be liberal in its construction of pleadings in the interest of the proper conduct of public business and for the protection of the taxpayer, and the same rule will be applied with reference to briefs and arguments.

A proposition to vote bonds to aid a corporation in the construction of a bridge was submitted to the voters of Riverside precinct in Dawson county. In the petition to call the election no donee of the bonds was named. No proposition was on file with the county board to build the bridge either at the time of the call of the election or so far as the record shows at any time since. So far as the record shows, the county board inserted in the call on its own volition the name of a proposed donee. In the petition and in the proposition submitted the proposed site of the bridge was so indefinite and uncertain that it might be located at any point for a mile along the bank of the stream. No road, either public or private, was in existence to the banks upon either side or across the stream within the mile limit at the time of the call, or at the time of the election. The proposition was to vote bonds in the sum of $12,800. The capital stock of the proposed donee, the Riverside Bridge Company, was the sum of $250 “to which shall be added any sums which may be voted by any precinct or municipal corporation to aid in the construction of the said bridge.” Other provisions of the articles provided that the corporation might sell the bridge “on such terms and to such persons or corporations as shall see(m) best for the maintenance of the said bridge.” There is no provision anywhere that the donee shall maintain the bridge. Held, that the proposition was unauthorized; that the location of the proposed bridge was too indefinite and uncertain; that the rights of the taxpayers were not sufficiently guarded; and that the issuance of the bonds should be enjoined.

Hamer, J., concurring in part and in conclusion.

Appeal from District Court, Dawson County; Hostetler, Judge.

Action by William A. Brooks against Hugh MacLean and others. From a judgment for defendants, plaintiff appeals. Reversed and remanded with directions.

[144 N.W. 1068]

H. M. Sinclair and W. D. Oldham, both of Kearney, for appellant.

John J. Halligan, of North Platte, and John H. Linderman and T. M. Hewitt, both of Lexington, for appellees.


This action was brought by the plaintiff for himself and in behalf of all other taxpayers similarly situated, for the purpose of enjoining the issuance and delivery of certain precinct bonds voted by Riverside precinct of Dawson county to aid in building a bridge across the Platte river. The defendants are the board of county commissioners of Dawson county and the Riverside Bridge Company, the proposed donee of the bonds. The principal reasons given in the petition to show that the bonds were illegal are: (1) Illegality in the formation of the precinct; (2) that the petition for the calling of an election was not signed by 50 freeholders; (3) that the proposed donation was in aid of a private enterprise; that the donee is a private corporation, with a capital stock of $250; that there is no road, either private or public, that leads to or from the proposed bridge, nor is there a road or bridge across the river at that point; that the land along the stream, as well as the bed, belongs to private owners; that the donee has no power to take land by eminent domain; that the bridge when constructed would be inaccessible to the public, and the property of the plaintiff will be taken to pay the bonds without due process of law; (4) a proposition to levy annually “a tax equal to the entire interest charge on the said bonds and equal to ten per cent. of the principal of the same for a sinking fund, until all of said bonds are paid,” is invalid upon its face. The answer is substantially a general denial. The district court found generally for the defendants, and dismissed the action. Plaintiff appeals.

The first point argued for a reversal is that the order of the county board organizing Riverside precinct is void, for the reason that the petition presented to the county board for that purpose did not contain a majority of the legal voters. In his application for injunction plaintiff sets out a petition containing only 37 names, but the answer denies that this is a correct copy of the petition presented to the county board, and there is testimony that a similar petition containing 51 additional names was also filed with the county board.

[1] Plaintiff insists that the order forming Riverside Precinct is void for the further reason that it was made at a special meeting, which the record of the county board recites was called by the county clerk, and that this meeting was illegal because the county clerk had no authority to call it, because there is no record of the calling of the meeting, and because the county board had no authority to create a precinct for the purpose of voting bonds. The county clerk has authority to call a special session when the interest of the public demands. Comp. St. 1911, c. 18, art. 1, § 57. The call was made, and the meeting held pursuant thereto. The meeting itself is proved by a proper record, and the presumption is that it was properly called. The failure of the clerk to make a record of the call did not invalidate it. Green & Van Duyn v. Lancaster County, 61 Neb. 473, 483, 85 N. W. 439.

The statute provides that each board of county commissioners shall divide the county into convenient precincts, and, as the occasion may require, erect new ones, subdivide the precincts, or establish better precinct lines. Comp. St. 1911, c. 18, art. 1, § 60. This is sufficient to confer the authority upon the county board. The facts with respect to the creation of this precinct are not parallel to those involved in the case of Morton v. Carlin, 51 Neb. 202, 70 N. W. 966; hence, it furnishes no authority against the validity of the organization of the precinct.

[2] The point argued that the board was not legally constituted since it was composed of three members, one of whom signed the petition, is not well taken. The joint action of two qualified members of the board was sufficient. State v. Piper, 17 Neb. 614, 24 N. W. 204. We conclude, therefore, that the attack upon the organization of the precinct made in the petition has not been sustained.

[3] Coming now to the validity of the election. The discussion of this subject assumes several phases. In the first place it is contended that the petition for the election did not contain the names of 50 freeholders, as required by the statute. Sixty names are affixed thereto. It is claimed that four of the signers of the petition were made freeholders for the purpose of signing the petition; but we are satisfied that the finding of the district court to the contrary is sustained by the evidence. It was also contended that a number of nonresident owners of land in the precinct signed the petition, and that if such names are deducted, there would not be the names of a sufficient number of resident freeholders signed to the petition to authorize the calling of an election. The right to petition the county board to call an election to vote on a proposition to issue precinct bonds does not depend upon the elective franchise. The statute does not say that the petitioners shall be “resident freeholders” or electors. The requirement is that a “petition signed by not less than fifty freeholders of the precinct” shall be presented to the county commissioners. Comp. St. 1911, c. 45, § 14. To show that the word “freeholders” means “resident freeholders” plaintiff cites

[144 N.W. 1069]

State v. Babcock, 21 Neb. 187, 31 N. W. 682;Wullenwaber v. Dunigan, 30 Neb. 877, 47 N. W. 420, 13 L. R. A. 811;Morton v. Carlin, 51 Neb. 202, 70 N. W. 966. In the first of those cases the term “resident freeholders” is neither used in the statute construed, nor in the opinion of the court. In the second case it was distinctly stated that the question relating to “freeholders” was not necessary to a decision. The words “resident freeholders” do not appear in the opinion, nor in the statute construed, and evidently crept into the syllabus through inadvertence. In the third case cited this syllabus, inadvertently containing the word “resident,” is copied in the opinion. Petitioners for a license to sell intoxicating liquors must be “resident freeholders.” Comp. St. 1911, c. 50, § 1. There is no provision of statute, however, requiring petitioners for an election to vote bonds to be “resident freeholders.” The terms “freeholders” and “resident freeholders” in the different statutes are not synonymous, and cannot be so construed. Nonresident and alien freeholders of the precinct may petition the county board to call an election to vote bonds. Rix v. Johnson, 5 N. H. 520, 22 Am. Dec. 472;Matthews v. People, 159 Ill. 399, 42 N. E. 864. In this view of the law the petition assailed is sufficient.

[4] The objections that the bonds were not voted and will not be delivered for a public purpose are...

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1 practice notes
  • Brooks v. MaClean, 17,289
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • January 7, 1914
    ...144 N.W. 1067 95 Neb. 16 WILLIAM A. BROOKS, APPELLANT, v. HUGH MACLEAN ET AL., APPELLEES No. 17,289Supreme Court of NebraskaJanuary 7, APPEAL from the district court for Dawson county: BRUNO O. HOSTETLER, JUDGE. Reversed with directions. REVERSED. H. M. Sinclair and W. D. Oldham, for appell......
1 cases
  • Brooks v. MaClean, 17,289
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • January 7, 1914
    ...144 N.W. 1067 95 Neb. 16 WILLIAM A. BROOKS, APPELLANT, v. HUGH MACLEAN ET AL., APPELLEES No. 17,289Supreme Court of NebraskaJanuary 7, APPEAL from the district court for Dawson county: BRUNO O. HOSTETLER, JUDGE. Reversed with directions. REVERSED. H. M. Sinclair and W. D. Oldham, for appell......

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