Evanston Failed Minimum Required Notice for $85M Bond Sale

[Editor’s Note: The City’s Corporation Council responded at Monday night’s Council meeting that Evanston’s home-rule status exempted it from the Bond Notification Act. — That statutory exemption does not exist in the Act ]

Evanston fell substantially short of its required public notice for its June 25 hearing to sell up to $85 million of its general obligation bonds. To date, the City has issued $52.5 million of those bonds, pledging to repay the $86.5 million in debt with unlimited property tax increases. A second round of bond sales is scheduled to be approved in April.

In the absence of referendum vote, Evanston was required to hold at least one properly noticed public hearing before adopting any ordinance to sell $75 million of those bonds. Hearing notice was required to be published in a newspaper within the governmental unit, and posted at the Civic Center at least 48 hours before the meeting.

Because the notice was not properly posted, addressed only $50 million of the $85 million bonds issued in Ordinance 71-O-18, and excluded other information required, that notice, and subsequently the hearing and authority to issue the bonds, are deemed invalid under the the Section 15 of the Illinois Bond Issue Notification Act.

Hearing requirements. Before adopting an ordinance selling non-referendum general obligation bonds…the governing body…shall hold at least one public hearing concerning the governing body’s intent to sell the bonds. 30 ILCS 352/10

Ordinance 71-O-18, introduced at the June 25 meeting, and passed on July 9, 2018, authorized sale of $75 million in 2018 A, B and D general obligation bond issues.

1The hearing and notices did not address Series B or D bond issues…

The notice, which shall appear above the name of the clerk or the secretary, shall be in substantially the following form: “The purpose of the hearing will be to receive public comments on the proposal to sell bonds in the amount of $…. (amount) for the purpose of ……… (state purpose).” (Name of clerk or secretary of governmental unit) 30 ILCS 352/15

2or the $24 million of the total $74 million bonds to be sold…

3or the purpose of the Series B or D bond issue proceeds.

4The City’s posted notice also failed to include that the purpose of the hearing was to receive public comments on the proposal to sell bonds…

5 and excluded the Clerk’s name.

6City ran a classified ad in Chicago Tribune on June 1, 2018. It’s not immediately clear if this constitutes a “newspaper in the government unit,” given Evanston is the government unit. This ad was the only notice of the hearing stated during the hearing.

Notice requirement…the governmental unit shall publish notice of the hearing at least once in a newspaper of general circulation in the governmental unit not less than 7 nor more than 30 days before the date of the hearing. (30 ILCS 352/15)

7The City also did not have record of notice posted at the Civic Center prior to the day of the hearing (19-183)

.…The notice shall also be given by posting at least 48 hours before the hearing a copy of the notice at the principal office of the governing body. (30 ILCS 352/15)

“Any notice that excludes that information shall be deemed invalid.” (30 ILCS 352/15)

Voter approval is typically required to sell general obligation bonds because they’re backed on property taxes. However, Illinois allows cities to skip referenda if they hold at least one properly noticed public hearing before adopting the ordinance to sell the bonds.


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