You might have thought that the May verdict in an eight-year long lawsuit between the Lyons Township Treasurer of Schools Office, commonly known as the TTO, and Lyons Township High School might have ended the drama and fighting between the two institutions.
But you would have been wrong. The messy separation of Lyons Township High School and the TTO continues.
Just four months after the verdict, the parties are again back in court fighting about money.
On Sept. 23 just hours after Jay Hoffman, the attorney for LTHS, went to court to try and prevent the TTO board from school district funds still held by the TTO, the two remaining TTO board members voted to reduce LTHS’ remaining funds by a little more than $1.2 million.
There are only two TTO board members because former board member Michael Dickman, appointed as a trustee in July, suddenly resigned the day before the vote.
The TTO board at its special meeting on Sept. 23 voted to reallocate assets among its member school districts, basing their action on a report by TTO Treasurer Ken Getty, which concluded some districts received too much money while other districts were shortchanged in quarterly interest allocations.
LTHS was the biggest loser in the new allocation, with its account being debited by more than $1.2 million. Some other area school districts gained. LaGrange School District 102, which serves southwestern Brookfield, was credited with an additional $104,620 while Lyons-Brookfield School District 103, which serves southeastern Brookfield, was credited with an additional $64,003.
However, at this time these are only bookkeeping changes. At a court hearing earlier on Sept. 23, TTO lawyers said that they would not touch approximately $6 million in LTHS money that the TTO is holding in two bank accounts.
Lawyers will be back in court on Oct. 6 when Hoffman will likely ask Judge Cecilia Horan to reverse the board’s action or at least to return much of the $1.2 million to LTHS.
“We are very pleased the judge agreed with LT’s position that the $6 million in LT funds that the TTO is holding must remain untouched in the two bank accounts until the next court hearing,” LTHS District 204 Superintendent Brian Waterman said in an email.
During the TTO’s Sept. 23 meeting, which was held virtually, Waterman objected to the TTO board voting on the reallocation, pointing out that the amounts were not listed in the agenda and were not available to the public.
But TTO board Chairman Mike Thiessen called for the vote anyway, saying Waterman should have spoken up during the public comment portion of the meeting.
The lawsuit TTO filed against LTHS in 2013 finally came to an end in May when after a complex trial Cook County Circuit Court Judge Jerry Esrig ruled that LTHS had to pay the TTO $764,789.33 in deferred fees, far short of the nearly $6 million the TTO was asking for.
The verdict was a major victory for LTHS as Esrig rejected most of the TTO’s claims that LTHS had underpaid its share of TTO expenses for years.
Once the case was over and no appeals were filed, LTHS began the process of leaving the TTO, as it is allowed to do by state law.
On July 1 the TTO, which holds and invests money for of all of the school districts in Lyons Township, transferred approximately $41.7 million to the high school but withheld $6 million, which LTHS officials say is their money pending the settlement of final claims.
At the Sept. 23 meeting, Thiessen said that the reallocation was done to complete the process of LTHS leaving the TTO.
“We do have an obligation on behalf of the other districts that are still in [the TTO] to try and bring this to closure as soon as we can,” Thiessen said.
Thiessen also criticized LTHS for going to court to seek a temporary restraining order to block the TTO from taking any money out of the accounts set aside for LTHS.
“District 204 is now prolonging a continued expense and waste of taxpayers’ dollars,” Thiessen said. “To do this in the last minute is unprofessional at best and bush league as well.”
The TTO, which spent more than $4 million in legal fees pursuing litigation against LTHS, had four lawyers present during the 30-minute hearing on Sept. 23 before Judge Horan, while Hoffman was the only attorney representing LTHS.
After the hearing was over, it seemed that everyone had agreed to leave the $6 million in question in two accounts, one at FNBC Bank and Trust and the other at Countryside Bank.
But the lawyers ultimately could not agree on the wording of an order and submitted competing orders to Judge Horan, who did not enter any order that day but may still do so.
The lawyers will be back in court on Oct. 6 at 10 a.m. when Judge Horan will consider LTHS’s motion for a preliminary injunction to prohibit the TTO from taking any money from LTHS’ account.
Lawyers for the TTO filed a motion to move the case to Judge Esrig, who presided over the trial. But Hoffman objected, arguing that the case belongs in the Chancery Division, because he is seeking an injunction, The TTO, Hoffman contended, was just trying to relitigate the lawsuit.
“They want to get back in front of Judge Esrig and essentially ask him to reconsider or rejigger his ruling and that he cannot do,” Hoffman said during the Sept. 23 hearing before Judge Horan. “Judge Esrig was terrific. He entered an order that was a crushing defeat for the TTO. Now they’re trying to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.”