Progress apparently is being made toward settling a lawsuit that Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 filed last year against the Village of Brookfield.
A couple of weeks ago, District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis and Brookfield Village Manager Keith Sbiral held a private meeting at the Brookfield Village Hall to discuss settling the lawsuit.
Attorneys for RBHS and the village have also been corresponding in an attempt to settle the lawsuit, which was filed after the Brookfield Village Board voted 5 to 1 not to grant two variances and a special use permit that RBHS sought to build a parking lot on land the high school owns north of Hollywood School.
“Both sides are continuing to talk,” Skinkis said. “The school district and the Board of Education would like to reach a settlement with the village. I think it’s fiscally responsible both for the taxpayers of the school district as well as the taxpayers in the village of Brookfield that we reach a settlement and try to eliminate the litigation.”
Skinkis said that his meeting with Sbiral was productive.
“I think the two of us had some very good conversations,” Skinkis said. “It’s now trying to get the two boards to align and see if a settlement can be worked out.”
Reached by email Monday, Sbiral declined to comment.
Last year, District 208 sued the village claiming that the village board’s denial of two variances and a special use permit that would have allowed RBHS to build a new parking lot was arbitrary and capricious.
A formal settlement conference the parties held with Judge Mary Mikva in February made little progress and resulted in each side issuing tough-sounding press releases. But, since then, officials and lawyers quietly have been exploring a settlement.
“There are still some issues that need to be resolved, but I believe there has been some common ground established,” said Rich Ramello, Brookfield’s village attorney.
Both Ramello and Skinkis declined to talk about what the two sides have agreed on thus far.
“I can’t because I’m concerned that it might jeopardize the ongoing discussions,” Ramello said.
District 208 school board member Ed Jepson said that various proposals had been exchanged.
A new judge, Celia Gamrath, has been assigned to the case, because Judge Mikva is being promoted to the appellate court.
A limited amount of discovery work has been done on the case and no trial date has been set. The next formal court date is July 26 for a status hearing.
“We’ve exchanged some information, but it’s really at the preliminary stages still,” said Nicki Bazer, the attorney who is representing District 208 in the case.
Skinkis and the District 208 school board appear to be anxious to settle the case and move past the acrimony the issue has caused. The current standoff has left RBHS without tennis courts on its campus, and the field residents of the neighborhood wanted to preserve remains off limits and torn up.
“The board wants to get this done and move on,” Skinkis said. “We’ve had a good working relationship with the village of Brookfield. It’s been a year already. It’s time to see if we can figure out a resolution that works for everybody.”