By Bob Skolnik
A recent ruling by a Cook County judge will ensure that the Lyons Township Schools Treasurer's Office will recoup less than they have already spent on legal fees in their six-year quest to force Lyons Township High School District 204 to reimburse them for two decades' worth of fees they say the high school owes for their services.
In a pretrial motion, Judge Thomas Mulroy ruled that the statute of limitations will limit the amount that the Township Trustees Office (TTO) can recover if it wins at trial to damages incurred only during the five years before the lawsuit was filed, or approximately $1.9 million.
The TTO already has spent more than $2 million in legal fees on the case, while LTHS has spent about $500,000.
The case had been set for trial in September, but Mulroy pushed hard for a settlement. The two sides worked with Mulroy for nearly a month, but settlement talks have now apparently ended. Last week, Mulroy set a new trial date of Dec. 16
"I think the trial date being set indicates that will be the next step," said Tim Kilrea, the superintendent of Lyons Township High School District 204, who declined to go into detail about the substance of the settlement talks.
The TTO sued the high school in 2013, claiming that LTHS owes it nearly $4.5 million. The TTO, which by state law manages finances for school districts in Lyons Township, claims that the high school has not paid its full share of fees to the TTO since 2000.
The TTO had filed two lawsuits against LTHS. The initial lawsuit, filed in 2013, was for money it claims that it is owed from 2000 to 2013. A subsequent lawsuit, filed last year, claims the high school owes an additional $420,000 it has failed to pay since the first lawsuit was filed. Those two cases now have been consolidated into one suit.
LTHS claims that it entered into an agreement in 1999 with the TTO board at the time to reduce the payments LTHS made to the TTO because the high school didn't need all the services that the TTO provides.
Healy pleaded guilty in 2015 to stealing roughly $100,000 from the TTO, which claims there was no such agreement with the high school district. For nearly two decades LTHS has only paid a portion of the annual bill it receives from the TTO.
LTHS officials would like to withdraw from the TTO, saying that they don't need its services and that the school can manage its own money. Once the case is resolved, LTHS will be able to withdraw from the TTO.
"There is certainly a disappointment that this is continuing," Kilrea said.
TTO board President Mike Thiessen did not return phone calls asking for comment about the apparent failure of the settlement talks. A call to Township Schools Treasurer Kenneth T. Getty was not also not returned.
During the settlement talks, the judge instructed both sides not to talk to reporters about the case. Neither side has been willing to talk about the substance of the negotiations.
This story has been changed to clarify that LTHS says it made a deal with the TTO board in 1999 to reduce annual payments for services.