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Judge dismisses lawsuit against McHenry Township board

Judge: McHenry Twp. electors have no statutory power to direct decisions

A McHenry County Circuit Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the McHenry Township board asking officials to remove a referendum from the November ballot that gives taxpayers the power to eliminate the road district with a majority vote.

Filed on behalf of more than
30 McHenry Township residents, the lawsuit alleges that the township board did not follow the directions of electors who voted at the government’s annual town meeting to request a cost study to determine whether consolidation would save taxpayers money.

On Thursday, Circuit Court Judge Kevin Costello dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that electors do not have the statutory power to direct the board.

Genna Hibbs, the Woodstock attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the residents, would not comment on whether her clients planned to appeal the decision.

Trustee Bob Anderson called the dismissal a “victory for the voters.”

“This is up to the voters to decide,” said Anderson, who has been fighting for township consolidation for three decades. “Do we want to keep the status quo, or do we want to move forward and change the cost of government?”

The lawsuit also asked that the court order the township board to remove Trustee Steve Verr from his appointed seat and pick a new trustee based on a public interview and the votes of electors. Verr was appointed to office last month after a closed-door interview that drew community criticism.

But the process did not break law, Costello said.

“While the optics of interviewing one trustee candidate in executive session while interviewing others publicly may be poor and understandably lead to a negative editorial by the local newspaper, [the lawsuit] failed to allege that such conduct violates any law,” the ruling said. “In fact, it did not.”

Verr, who had lost his election bid against Supervisor Craig Adams, was not available for comment Thursday.

The lawsuit stemmed from the township’s annual meeting in April, when a group of residents was given the chance to directly address trustees about how to manage the township. They voted, 76-0, on a request calling for a cost study to explore how consolidation could affect taxpayers.

An Illinois law that took effect
Jan. 1, however, allows township trustees to ask voters whether they want the road district abolished and its responsibilities given to the township supervisor.

At a special meeting in February, Trustees Mike Rakestraw, Anderson and Bill Cunningham voted to include the referendum on the November ballot. Trustee Stan Wojewski and Adams voted against it.

The lawsuit dismissed Thursday said the board ignored the residents’ vote in favor of a cost study. The plaintiffs asked the board to conduct a study and share the results with taxpayers at least 90 days before passing a resolution that would put a consolidation question on the ballot.

Adams, an opponent of consolidation, was not available for comment Thursday.

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