Posted by: Patricia Salkin | April 19, 2019

IL Appeals Court Denies Sanctions in Zoning Case that Escalated into Contentious Feud

This post was authored by Amy Lavine, Esq.

Sanctions were considered and denied by an Illinois court in a recent case that began with a zoning dispute and escalated into a series of claims and counter claims alleging defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and malicious prosecution, among other things. Because the record on appeal was incomplete, the court affirmed the decision below and dismissed the motion for sanctions.

The dispute in this case began when James Perdue moved to the Village of Tower Hill and placed a mobile home and carport on his property. He did not have building permits for these improvements, however, and both the mobile home and the carport were noncompliant under the village’s zoning regulations. When the village attempted to enjoin Perdue’s zoning violations, his allegedly hostile behavior led to an escalation of the dispute. He began a pattern of filing public records requests and submitting complaints about various local government officials and employees, including Fanny Urfer, who served as the village’s mayor and later as a member of the board of trustees.

Urfer alleged in particular that Perdue engaged in a course of harassment, claiming that he would repeatedly drive by her home and make obscene gestures, and that he had threatened to run over at least two people involved in the zoning enforcement action. She claimed that he had a history of violence, and that it had been necessary for the village to remove him from meetings and to implement increased security measures for the protection of both employees and members of the public. Urfer eventually sued Perdue, claiming that she suffered emotional distress as result of his hostile and disruptive behavior, and also alleging that his public records requests and subsequent defamation suit constituted malicious prosecution. After her first action was dismissed, she amended the complaint to add a spoilation of evidence claim based on a report that he had destroyed various documents relating to the action.

In 2017, Urfer requested a voluntary dismissal due to her deteriorating health. The trial court granted her motion and dismissed her complaint with prejudice, but it allowed additional time for her to file a motion for sanctions. Perdue’s response to this dismissal was to file his own motion for costs and sanctions, claiming that Urfer’s complaint was frivolous and that she had refused to comply with his discovery requests. The trial court ultimately denied both parties’ requests for sanctions, and in response, Perdue filed the appeal at issue in this case.

The court resolved Perdue’s appeal on procedural grounds and was thereby able to avoid most of the parties’ competing accusations about frivolous and abusive conduct. As the court explained, although the trial court denied both motions for sanctions “for reasons stated on the record,” the record on appeal was incomplete and did not include a hearing transcript or any other evidence of the trial court’s findings. It was Perdue’s burden, as the appellant, to present a sufficiently complete record to support his claims of error, and because he failed to carry this burden, the court was constrained to dismiss his appeal and affirm the decision below denying sanctions to Perdue as well as to Urfer.

Urfer v. Perdue, 2019 IL App (5th) 180239-U (4/17/19).

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