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of the constitution reads as follows: "The Governor shall have power to remove any officer whom he may appoint, in case of incompetency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office; and he may declare his office vacant and fill the same as is herein provided in other cases of vacancy.” It is apparent that said provision of the constitution only applies to officers whom the Governor is given power to appoint and does not apply to an elective officer such as sheriff, who is a county officer and who is elected by the people. The constitution of this State is ordinarily held to be a limitation upon the power of the legislature and not a grant of power to that body, and there being found in the constitution no limitation upon the power of the legislature to provide for the removal of a county officer in case of misfeasance or malfeasance in office, there is nothing in the constitution to prevent the legislature from providing, by statute, that the Governor shall, in a case like the one at bar, have the right to remove a sheriff from office and declare his office vacant.
In Donahue v. County of Will, 100 Ill. 94, this court had under consideration the constitutionality of a statute conferring power upon county boards to remove county treasurers from office for misfeasance and non-feasance in office, and it was held that the General Assembly of this State had vested in it all legislative power except in so far as this power had been limited by constitutional enactment, and that by reason of such power the General Assembly had the power to prescribe the offense or offenses which should work a forfeiture of the office of Donahue as county treasurer and provide what tribunal should determine whether he was guilty of such offense or offenses as justified his removal. On page 105 of the opinion filed in that case, in discussing the subject then under consideration, it was said: “Knowing, as they did, that the General Assembly had all legislative power unless limited in its exercise, if that body intended that a person, not a State officer or holding under the judiciary article, should not be removed except by the judgment of a court they would have so provided. They knew that a proceeding by quo warranto with the right to appeal would be useless where the term fixed is of short duration, as it would expire before a final decision could be reached. The body, as practical men, could not have intended that such slow processes should be adopted, and thus permit a reckless, dishonest and irresponsible officer to collect and defiantly squander the public revenue, compel his bondsmen to stand by and see him working their financial ruin, and neither the public nor the individuals be able to check it but to wait till his office expires before he is removed or checked in his destructive course. We must presume the framers of the constitution intended to place no limitation on the power of the General Assembly to provide ample and effective means to prevent such wrongs to the public and to individuals. Possessing legislative power, the General Assembly was fully competent to prescribe the offenses which should work a forfeiture of this office and provide what tribunal shall determine the fact. They have provided that defalcation in office shall be grounds of removal of a county treasurer and that the county board should have power to determine the fact and make the removal, and we are clearly of opinion that there is no limitation which forbids the General Assembly from exercising the power.”
We think the reasoning of the court in the above case is conclusive of the right of the General Assembly to confer upon the Governor the power to remove from office a sheriff who by his neglect falls within the provisions of the act under which the Governor acted in this case and to declare the office vacant, and that said act is not invalid because it confers upon the Governor powers not authorized by the constitution.
It is next urged that the act of 1905 is in violation of section 22 of article 4 of the constitution of 1870 and the fourteenth amendment to the constitution of the United States on the ground that it amounts to special legislation, in this: that it places the burden upon sheriffs of the danger of removal from office by the Governor for official misconduct in permitting a prisoner to be taken from their custody, while all other peace officers in the State, such as coroners, constables, policemen, etc., are exempted from such burden. We cannot accede to this view. A sheriff is the principal executive officer of the county and may exercise the powers of a sheriff at common law. (Dahnke v. People, 168 I11. 102.) We think, therefore, that a sheriff does not fall within the same class, for the purposes of legislation, that coroners, constables and policemen do, and that the duties of a sheriff and the rights which pertain to his office so far differ from the duties which are imposed upon other police officers in this State, and the rights which pertain to their offices, as to form a proper and legitimate basis for legislation. In fact, such distinction is recognized in the constitution itself and in statutes which have existed in this State from its earliest history, wherein the peace officers of the State have been divided into sheriffs,the principal executive officer of the county,—and such subordinate peace officers as coroners, constables and policemen. The general rule is, that a classification will suffice as a basis for legislation if such classification is based upon a rational difference of situation or condition found to exist in the persons or objects upon which the classification rests. (People v. Knopf, 183 Ill. 410; L'Hote v. Village of Milford, 212 id. 418; Douglas v. People, 225 id. 536; Potwin v. Johnson, 108 id. 70; Reynolds v. Town of Foster, 89 id. 257; People v. Board of Supervisors, 223 id. 187; Dawson Soap Co. v. City of Chicago, 234 id. 314.) And it does not follow that a law is not a general law because it does not operate equally upon every individual or officer in the State, but a law is a general law which does operate alike upon all persons or officers in the State who are similarly situated. (People v. Wright, 70 I11. 388; Potwin v. Johnson, supra; People v. Board of Supervisors, supra; Dawson Soap Co. v. City of Chicago, supra.) This court has held that there is such a rational difference between the counties of the State which are organized under township organization and those which are not, and between the cities of the State which are organized under special charters and those which are not, as to form a rational basis for legislation. In Dawson Soap Co. v. City of Chicago, supra, where many of the cases are reviewed and quoted from, it was held that the act of 1887, relating to mobs and riots, and which provides for the recovery by the owner from counties and cities of the value of property destroyed by mobs and rioters assembling therein, was not unconstitutional because there could be no recovery against villages and towns, since, it was held, there was a rational difference between a county and city and a village and town. We are of the opinion that the act is not unconstitutional on the ground that it amounts to special and discriminating legislation. Neither is it void because it is a special law regulating county officers. Booth v. Opel, 244 Ill. 317.
The statute being constitutional and the relator having been legally removed from office, the next question to be considered is, at what time did the office become vacant? If the vacancy occurred on November 18, the day the proclamation of removal was issued by the Governor, the vacancy was for more than one year and should have been filled by an election; on the contrary, if the vacancy did not exist until December 6, the day on which the Governor declined to re-instate the relator, the vacancy was for less than one year and the office was properly filled by appointment by the county board.
Section 6 of the act provides that if a prisoner shall be taken from the hands of a sheriff or his deputy and lynched it shall be prima facie evidence of failure on the part of such sheriff to do his duty, and, upon the fact being made to appear to the Governor, "he shall publish proclamation declaring the office of such sheriff vacant, and his office shall thereby and thereafter immediately be vacated, and the coroner shall immediately succeed to and perform the duties of sheriff until the successor of such sheriff shall have been duly elected or appointed.” The language is so clear as not to admit of construction, that upon the Governor issuing his proclamation declaring the office vacant, the office shall, by virtue of such proclamation, immediately become vacant and remain vacant until a successor shall have been duly elected or appointed. We therefore conclude that when the Governor issued his proclamation on November 18 the office of sheriff in Alexander county became vacant, and that as on that day the relator had more than one year to serve to complete his term of office the successor of the relator should have been elected and not appointed, and that the appointment of the respondent by the county board was illegal and void, and he was properly ousted from such office.
It is said, however, that the proviso to section 6 provides for the re-instatement of a sheriff who has been removed by the proclamation of the Governor, and that it should be held that the office is not vacant until the Governor had refused to re-instate the sheriff who had been removed. We do not think such is the true construction of the statute. It does not say the sheriff shall be suspended from his office until the Governor shall determine whether he will re-instate him in his office, but says that upon the issuing of the proclamation the office shall immediately become vacant. Suppose no application for re-instatement is made; when, then, will it be said the vacancy occurs? The appellant replies, when the time for making the application for re-instatement (which is ten days) has elapsed. We do not think this is true, as the statute does not so read. The language of the statute is clear and unambiguous, and we must presume the legislature intended to say what it meant,--that is, that the office should become vacant im