Despite being rebuffed a second time, a taxpayer-watchdog group says it will appeal the July 17 ruling of Cook County Judge Leroy K. Martin, who dismissed with prejudice Taxpayers United of America’s lawsuit alleging illegal electioneering by Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 in 2011.
Martin, who had thrown out two other claims made by Taxpayers United against the district in March, granted the school district’s motion to dismiss the third claim, which alleged the use of approximately $50,000 in public funds to advocate for a property tax referendum. The referendum, which appeared on the April 2011 ballot, was defeated by a more than 3-1 margin.
“It’s incredible a judge would rule in favor of law breaking,” said Jim Tobin, president of Taxpayers United, which filed the suit shortly after the April 2011 election, with Riverside resident Tony Peraica as a co-plaintiff. “It’s un-frigging-believable.”
Tobin claims that the district technically admitted to the electioneering by filing a motion for summary dismissal. Technically, for a judge to consider such a motion, he has to assume all of the allegations being made against the defendant are true. What Martin ruled was that, even if the allegations were true, the lawsuit still had no merit.
William Pokorny, the attorney representing D208, scoffed at Tobin’s claim that the district admitted his allegations by making the motion to dismiss.
“The district has never admitted anything,” Pokorny said.
Tobin said Taxpayers United will appeal all three of Martin’s rulings, though that may not end up being the case. In March, Martin dismissed “with prejudice” claims that the district’s referendum question was worded in such a way that it was misleading and confusing.
Taxpayers United had filed similar claims against two other school districts in Wilmette and Oak Park. Those cases were also thrown out in Cook County Circuit Court then appealed by Taxpayers United. The appellate court upheld the circuit courts’ rulings.
The taxpayer group had 30 days from July 17 to file its appeal with the court.
“The taxpayers of Riverside-Brookfield school district and across the state have a right to legal and responsible handling of their money,” Tobin said in a statement.
D208 has spent $10,000 defending the case. Any amount above $10,000 is being paid by the district’s insurance carrier.
School board President Matthew Sinde said he was pleased with the judge’s ruling.
“I am … excited that the board can now focus on the district and providing great educational experiences for the students,” said Sinde in a statement released July 17.
“It is disappointing that the district had to spend money on this lawsuit, but the right decision came out in the long run.”