Cinkus v. Village of Stickney, No. 104471.

CourtSupreme Court of Illinois
Writing for the CourtFreeman
Citation886 N.E.2d 1011,228 Ill.2d 200
Docket NumberNo. 104471.
Decision Date20 March 2008
PartiesJohn F. CINKUS, Appellant, v. The VILLAGE OF STICKNEY MUNICIPAL OFFICERS ELECTORAL BOARD et al., Appellees.
886 N.E.2d 1011
228 Ill.2d 200
John F. CINKUS, Appellant,
v.
The VILLAGE OF STICKNEY MUNICIPAL OFFICERS ELECTORAL BOARD et al., Appellees.
No. 104471.
Supreme Court of Illinois.
March 20, 2008.
As Modified April 23, 2008.

[886 N.E.2d 1014]

Michael E. Lavelle, Kevin E. Bry, of Lavelle & Motta, Ltd., Anthony J. Peraica, both of Chicago, for appellant.

Joseph Cainkar, of Louis F. Cainkar, Ltd., Chicago, for appellees.

OPINION

Justice FREEMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion:


John Cinkus filed nomination papers to be a candidate in the April 17, 2007, election for village trustee in the Village of Stickney. The Village of Stickney municipal officers electoral board (Board) found Cinkus ineligible for office pursuant to section 3.1-10-5(b) of the Illinois Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-5(b) (West 2006)). On judicial review, the circuit court of Cook County set aside the Board's decision and ordered that Cinkus' name be placed on the ballot. The appellate court reversed the order of the circuit court and confirmed the Board's decision. 373 Ill. App.3d 866, 311 Ill.Dec. 848, 869 N.E.2d 861. We allowed Cinkus' petition for leave to appeal (210 Ill.2d R. 315), and now affirm the judgment of the appellate court.

I. BACKGROUND

The record contains the following pertinent facts. On April 27, 2006, a law enforcement officer issued to Cinkus a citation for disorderly conduct in violation of section 16-7 of the Stickney Municipal Code (Stickney Municipal Code § 16-7 (1981), now codified as Stickney Municipal Code § 50-32). On May 25, 2006, an administrative hearing was held on the citation. Cinkus appeared and contested the charge. The village hearing officer found Cinkus liable as charged and ordered him to pay a fine of $100. Cinkus was granted a continuance for payment pending administrative review. On September 28, 2006, payment was continued to November 16,

886 N.E.2d 1015

2006. On that date, Cinkus failed to appear, and the village entered judgment against Cinkus for the $100 fine. On November 21, 2006, the Village served notice of judgment on Cinkus.1

Cinkus filed his nomination papers on February 5, 2007, which was the final day to do so, for the office of Stickney village trustee in the April 17, 2007, consolidated election. On February 12, 2007, Sam Esposito timely filed a petition objecting to Cinkus' candidacy. See 10 ILCS 5/10-8 (West 2006). Esposito invoked section 3.1-10-5(b) of the Illinois Municipal Code, which provides, in part, 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." 65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-5(b) (West 2006). In his objector's petition, Esposito alleged that Cinkus was "in arrears in the payment of indebtedness in the amount of $100.00 to the Village of Stickney as evidenced by the attached `Notice of Judgment Entered' and therefore is ineligible to be elected to Trustee of the Village of Stickney."

Cinkus filed a motion to dismiss. Included with the motion was an affidavit, in which Cinkus stated under oath as follows. The objector's petition informed Cinkus that he was indebted to the village in the amount of $100. On February 14, 2007, Cinkus went to the village hall and appeared at the business payment window. Cinkus showed a village employee a copy of the notice of judgment and offered to pay the debt. The employee was advised that she could not accept payment; however, she suggested that Cinkus see Officer Torres, who was the village code enforcement officer and who signed the notice of judgment. On February 16, 2007, Cinkus met with Officer Torres, who also refused to accept payment, but advised Cinkus to speak with the village mayor or treasurer. Cinkus went to the village treasurer. According to the affidavit: "I understood from my conversation with the Treasurer that his hands were tied and he could not accept payment." Cinkus then wrote a check payable to the village for the $100 judgment, wrote the case number on the check, and inserted it through the payment window at the village business office, announcing that he was paying his debt.2

On February 16 and 22, 2007, the Board held a hearing on Esposito's objection.3 Esposito presented as evidence Cinkus' citation for disorderly conduct and the judgment entered against Cinkus in the amount of $100. Esposito rested his case. Cinkus asked the Board to grant his motion to dismiss "for failure of the Objector [Esposito] to establish a prima facie case." Cinkus' sole contention at the hearing, as stated in his motion to dismiss, was that section 3.1-10-5(b) of the Illinois Municipal Code "limits eligibility to the office and not to candidacy for the office." (Emphases in original.) Relying on People v. Hamilton, 24 Ill.App. 609 (1887), Cinkus contended:

886 N.E.2d 1016

"All a candidate must do is pay the debt before assuming the office and he is eligible to hold the office." At the close of the hearing, the Board sustained Esposito's objection, finding:

"That the candidate [Cinkus] is not eligible to be a candidate for the elected municipal office sought under [section 3.1-10-5(b) of the Illinois Municipal Code], as he is indebted to the Village of Stickney in the amount of $100.00 by virtue of a judgment entered against him in that amount which, as of the date of the filing of the Objector's Petition, was unpaid."

The Board declared Cinkus' nomination papers to be invalid and ordered that his name not be printed on the ballot for the April 17, 2007, consolidated election.

Cinkus timely filed a petition for judicial review in the circuit court (see 10 ILCS 5/10-10.1 (West 2006)). In his petition and supporting brief, Cinkus initially denied that he was in arrears in the payment of a debt owed to the village. He argued that: (1) the notice of judgment did not prescribe the procedure or time for payment; and (2) he did pay the debt prior to the Board hearing. Cinkus alternatively contended that, even if he was in arrears in the payment of a debt to the village, section 3.1-10-5(b) of the Illinois Municipal Code is not a basis to strike his nomination papers and exclude his name from the ballot. On March 15, 2007, the circuit court set aside the Board's decision and ordered Cinkus' name to be placed on the April 17, 2007, ballot.

Esposito appealed, and on April 6, 2007, the appellate court filed its decision. Relying on the plain language of section 3.1-10-5(b) of the Illinois Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-5(b) (West 2006)), read as a whole, the court concluded that being in arrears of a debt to a municipality precludes eligibility to run for municipal office. The appellate court reversed the order of the circuit court, confirmed the Board's decision, and further ordered that "if removal of Mr. Cinkus' name from the ballot cannot be accomplished prior to election day, the Board shall be required to disregard any votes cast for him in determining the winner of the election." No. 1-07-0700 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). The appellate court subsequently refiled its decision as a published opinion. 373 Ill.App.3d 866, 311 Ill.Dec. 848, 869 N.E.2d 861. On April 17, 2007, Cinkus filed his petition for leave to appeal to this court (210 Ill.2d R. 315). We will refer to additional pertinent background in the context of our analysis of the issues.

II. ANALYSIS

The "sole question presented" to the appellate court involved the interpretation of section 3.1-10-5(b) of the Illinois Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-5(b) (West 2006)). 373 Ill.App.3d at 868, 311 Ill.Dec. 848, 869 N.E.2d 861. We view this issue as dispositive. However, prior to addressing the merits, we must first address several preliminary matters.

A. Mootness

Esposito invites us to declare this case moot. A case on appeal becomes moot where the issues presented in the trial court no longer exist because events subsequent to the filing of the appeal render it impossible for the reviewing court to grant the complaining party effectual relief. In re A Minor, 127 Ill.2d 247, 255, 130 Ill.Dec. 225, 537 N.E.2d 292 (1989) (collecting cases). In this case, the April 17, 2007, election obviously has come and gone. Indeed, Cinkus filed his petition for leave to appeal on the day of the election. According to Esposito, Cinkus sought to have his name placed on the April 17, 2007, ballot and that is no longer possible.

886 N.E.2d 1017

However, one exception to the mootness doctrine allows a court to resolve an otherwise moot issue if that issue involves a substantial public interest. The criteria for application of the public interest exception are: (1) the question presented is of a public nature; (2) an authoritative resolution of the question is desirable to guide public officers; and (3) the question is likely to recur. Lucas v. Lakin, 175 Ill.2d 166, 170, 221 Ill.Dec. 834, 676 N.E.2d 637 (1997); A Minor, 127 Ill.2d at 257, 130 Ill.Dec. 225, 537 N.E.2d 292. A clear showing of each criterion is necessary to bring a case within the public interest exception. Bonaguro v. County Officers Electoral Board, 158 Ill.2d 391, 395, 199 Ill.Dec. 659, 634 N.E.2d 712 (1994). The present case meets this test. This appeal raises a question of election law, which inherently is a matter of public concern. Also, this issue is likely to recur in a future municipal election. Being in arrears of a debt owed to a municipality can involve common items, such as unpaid parking tickets or village utility bills. Thus, an authoritative resolution of the issue is desirable to guide public officers. Therefore, we decline to dismiss this appeal as moot. We proceed to additional preliminary matters.

B. Standard of Review

We next determine our standard of review. The circuit court reviewed the Board's decision pursuant to section 10-10.1 of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/10-10.1 (West 2006)). This court views an electoral board as an administrative agency. S...

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511 practice notes
  • Maksym v. the Bd. of Election Commissioners of The City of Chicago, No. 111773.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • January 27, 2011
    ...findings were not against the manifest weight of the evidence. See Cinkus v. Village of Stickney Municipal Officers Electoral Board, 228 Ill.2d 200, 210, 319 Ill.Dec. 887, 886 N.E.2d 1011 (2008). Accordingly, we set forth the facts largely as summarized in the appellate court opinion. The c......
  • Pedersen v. Vill. of Hoffman Estates & James H. Norris, No. 1–12–3402.
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • May 8, 2014
    ...fact, one of law, or a mixed question of fact and law. [8 N.E.3d 1098]Cinkus v. Village of Stickney Municipal Officers Electoral Board, 228 Ill.2d 200, 210, 319 Ill.Dec. 887, 886 N.E.2d 1011 (2008). ¶ 49 As previously noted, in order to receive benefits under the Act, a firefighter must suf......
  • Goral v. Dart, No. 1-18-1646
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • June 19, 2019
    ...to be finally determined by the agency itself."); see also Cinkus v. Village of Stickney Municipal Officers Electoral Board , 228 Ill. 2d 200, 210, 319 Ill.Dec. 887, 886 N.E.2d 1011 (2008) ("[A]n agency's decision on a question of law is not binding on a reviewing court. For examp......
  • Taylor v. Police Bd. of the City of Chicago, No. 1–10–1156.
    • United States
    • Illinois Appellate Court
    • November 4, 2011
    ...against the manifest weight of the evidence as a question of fact. Cinkus v. Village of Stickney Municipal Officers Electoral Board, 228 Ill.2d 200, 210, 319 Ill.Dec. 887, 886 N.E.2d 1011 (2008). (“[A] reviewing court is limited to ascertaining whether [the administrative agency's] findings......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
511 cases
  • Maksym v. the Bd. of Election Commissioners of The City of Chicago, No. 111773.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • January 27, 2011
    ...findings were not against the manifest weight of the evidence. See Cinkus v. Village of Stickney Municipal Officers Electoral Board, 228 Ill.2d 200, 210, 319 Ill.Dec. 887, 886 N.E.2d 1011 (2008). Accordingly, we set forth the facts largely as summarized in the appellate court opinion. The c......
  • Pedersen v. Vill. of Hoffman Estates & James H. Norris, No. 1–12–3402.
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • May 8, 2014
    ...fact, one of law, or a mixed question of fact and law. [8 N.E.3d 1098]Cinkus v. Village of Stickney Municipal Officers Electoral Board, 228 Ill.2d 200, 210, 319 Ill.Dec. 887, 886 N.E.2d 1011 (2008). ¶ 49 As previously noted, in order to receive benefits under the Act, a firefighter must suf......
  • Goral v. Dart, No. 1-18-1646
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • June 19, 2019
    ...to be finally determined by the agency itself."); see also Cinkus v. Village of Stickney Municipal Officers Electoral Board , 228 Ill. 2d 200, 210, 319 Ill.Dec. 887, 886 N.E.2d 1011 (2008) ("[A]n agency's decision on a question of law is not binding on a reviewing court. For examp......
  • Taylor v. Police Bd. of the City of Chicago, No. 1–10–1156.
    • United States
    • Illinois Appellate Court
    • November 4, 2011
    ...against the manifest weight of the evidence as a question of fact. Cinkus v. Village of Stickney Municipal Officers Electoral Board, 228 Ill.2d 200, 210, 319 Ill.Dec. 887, 886 N.E.2d 1011 (2008). (“[A] reviewing court is limited to ascertaining whether [the administrative agency's] findings......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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