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Judge expected to make decision on McHenry Township lawsuit

Lawyer expects ruling on referendum to consolidate this week

McHenry Township Trustee Bob Anderson talks with the Northwest Herald Editorial Board about the referendum to abolish the township's road district Sept. 27 in Crystal Lake.
McHenry Township Trustee Bob Anderson talks with the Northwest Herald Editorial Board about the referendum to abolish the township's road district Sept. 27 in Crystal Lake.

A judge in Rockford has heard arguments on both sides of a federal lawsuit filed against McHenry Township officials that aims to derail a binding referendum that would give voters the power to abolish the road district in the November election.

U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Kapala is expected to deliver a written order on the case this week, McHenry Township attorney James Militello said.

The plaintiffs in the case – listed as McHenry Township residents Robert Beltran and Judith Gottlieb and Supervisor Craig Adams – allege that the referendum is unconstitutional and argue that a cost study should be required to show the financial outcome before voters can choose.

The defendants – McHenry Township trustees, McHenry County Clerk Mary McClellan and the Illinois State Board of Elections – argue that electors do not have the power to direct the township board to do anything.

A separate request for a temporary restraining order asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to bar McClellan from printing ballots including the referendum.

But the clerk’s office already has printed more than 200,000 ballots and mailed thousands of them to coincide with early voting. The clerk said she does not think the lawsuit will hold up.

Should a federal judge decide in favor of the plaintiffs, McClellan said, the clerk could suppress the results of the referendum question and withhold the number of votes.

The lawsuit landed in Rockford one week after McHenry County Circuit Court Judge Kevin Costello dismissed a similar lawsuit, ruling that electors do not have the statutory power to direct the board.

The lawsuit dismissed last week in McHenry County Circuit Court 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.

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.

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