A Chicago-based anti-tax organization says it will be filing a lawsuit this week against Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 for what it considers the inappropriate use of taxpayer money to advocate for a tax referendum defeated at the polls on April 5.

Christina Tobin, vice president of Taxpayers United of America, said Monday that the she has spoken with attorney Andrew Spiegel and said lawsuit would probably be filed by Friday.

On April 4, James Tobin, president of Taxpayers United of America, wrote to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez alleging that “District 208 has illegally used public funds to run a political campaign on behalf of the referendum.”

The Illinois Election Interference Act makes it a criminal offense for schools to use public resources to advocate for or against a referendum. The State Employees and Officials Ethics Act prohibits school employees from engaging in prohibited political activity during work hours.

Jim Tobin’s letter listed 14 examples of funds being misused, from the use of school computers to maintain pro-referendum volunteer lists to running a pro-referendum commercial on the school’s television station.

“We’ve received that complaint and are reviewing it,” said Andy Conklin, a spokesperson for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.

District 208 Interim Superintendent David Bonnette said Monday that he had no comment on the matter at this time. Bonnette said that he has not been contacted by the state’s attorney’s office.

“I have received nothing,” Bonnette said.

Christina Tobin said that the lawsuit would be filed whether or not law enforcement authorities bring charges against the district or district employees.

“Whether the state’s attorney is taking action or not, we’re taking action,” said Christina Tobin, who is the daughter of James Tobin. “I can’t go into too much detail, but essentially, the problem is that taxpayer resources were used to try to push this referendum through.

“The taxpayers defeated it, but that still doesn’t make it right that taxpayer dollars were wasted,” she added. “We want to set an example that it’s not going to be tolerated.”

Taxpayers United of America’s lawsuit against RBHS will be filed in conjunction with a separate complaint against Oak Park School District 97, Tobin said.

On April 5, Oak Park voters passed a tax increase for their elementary school district. Taxpayers United is expected to argue the result should be invalidated because the wording of the referendum question was misleading. The same wording was used in the referendum question on the ballot in District 208.

“These lawsuits against Oak Park and RB we hope will set a precedent that this will not be happening in the future,” Tobin said.

At the April 12 District 208 school board meeting two members of the school board, Matt Sinde and Mike Welch asked, during a discussion item on the agenda, that two members of the school board who were not involved with the referendum campaign be appointed to investigate the allegations of illegal pro-referendum activities by the district and RB employees.

“We need to conduct a fact-finding investigation,” Sinde said. “It’s not a witch hunt. It’s indentifying where the breakdown occurred.”

However, their proposal received little support from the rest of the board and no action was taken.

“I don’t think it is appropriate to have two board members do an investigation,” said board member Sue Kleinmeyer. “I think that’s the superintendent’s job.”

Bonnette promised to respond to the concerns expressed by Sinde and Welch.

“I’ll provide you a detailed report,” Bonnette told the board members.

Bonnette said that he sent out multiple memos to school staff about permitted referendum activities. He said that he acted quickly when he found out about questionable activities, such as a school-produced “vote yes” ad running on RBTV. He said that he does not believe that anyone at RB willfully violated the law.

“I don’t believe any staff member in the district knowingly violated any legislation,” Bonnette said. “I’m somewhat concerned that the staff and administration was painted as conducting a referendum out of this building.”