It looks like the long-running lawsuit filed by the Lyons Township Treasurer of Schools (TTO) against Lyons Township High School District 204 is finally going to trial. Last month, Cook County Circuit Judge Thomas Mulroy set a trial date of Sept. 9.
Mulroy also issued a damaging ruling for the TTO, stating that, because of a statute of limitations issue, the most the TTO could recover if it wins at trial is approximately $1.4 million.
The TTO, which first filed the lawsuit against LTHS in 2013, had been seeking approximately $4.7 million in fees it says LTHS owes.
The TTO has already spent about $2 million in legal fees on the case, Treasurer of Schools Kenneth T. Getty said at the TTO board’s meeting on Aug. 26. District 204 Superintendent Tim Kilrea said District 204 has spent about $500,000 in legal fees on the case.
“That’s not ideal,” TTO board President Mike Thiessen said on Monday about the possibility of winning the case but recovering less than it has already spent on legal fees. “That wasn’t the goal. That ship has sailed.”
But Thiessen and fellow TTO board member Michael Dickman said that if the TTO wins at trial, it could then appeal Judge Mulroy’s ruling that the TTO can only seek payments for no more than five years prior to when the TTO filed the lawsuit in 2013.
“There are reasonable minds that disagree with his conclusion,” said Dickman, who serves as a supervising administrative law judge for the state of Illinois. “Just because the judge has made that initial decision doesn’t mean that it’s permanently set in stone on that question. That can be revisited. It can be reopened at any time based on the evidence.”
LTHS claims it had an agreement with the TTO stating the school district would not have to pay for certain services, because LTHS was doing the work itself. In most of suburban Cook County, state law requires that a township treasurer of schools office provide most of the financial services for school districts.
Kilrea welcomed the judge’s decision on the stature of limitations issue.
“We’re pleased,” Kilrea said. “We always felt that was the proper ruling.”
Although there have been no settlement discussions recently, both sides say that a settlement in the case is still possible. A pretrial conference with Judge Mulroy is set for Sept. 4. Dickman said a pretrial conference often spurs a settlement.
“Sometimes things change on the eve of trial, sometimes they don’t,” Dickman said.
Kilrea said that after the judge’s ruling on the statute of limitations issue, LTHS asked for a revised settlement offer from the TTO but heard nothing. Thiessen said LTHS officials made no real attempt to reach out to him.
Former school treasurer Robert Healy, who pled guilty in 2015 to stealing more than $100,000 in school funds from the TTO’s coffers, is expected to one of the witnesses called by LTHS during the trial.
LTHS claims that it had an agreement with Healy and the TTO board at that time to receive a credit for services that LTHS did for itself.
“We’ve always stated that we had an agreement in place,” Kilrea said.