Shut it down

Opinion: Editorials

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If anyone is looking for an example of government waste, they really need look no further than what is transpiring in Lyons Township, where for the past six years the Lyons Township Treasurer of Schools has been pursuing a lawsuit against Lyons Township High School District 204.

The lawsuit seeks to reclaim almost $5 million in unpaid fees it says the high school owes for services that the high school hasn't paid them for. The high school says it has been doing that work itself for years and that District 204 had an agreement with a prior township treasurer, who waived those fees since the treasurer's office wasn't actually providing them.

Six years later, a Cook County judge has set a trial date for the case and, in the meantime, also ruled that due to statute of limitations laws, the most the treasurer's office could collect – if it wins the case, which is no guarantee – is $1.4 million.

The trouble is that the treasurer's office has already spent $2 million prosecuting this lawsuit, while the school district has spent another $500,000. That's a heck of a return on investment for taxpayers, isn't it?

Of course, the same set of taxpayers is paying the legal bills for both sides, so just to be clear, we're up to at least $2.5 million in legal fees with the potential that, at the end of a trial, the treasurer's office gets either $1.4 million in fees or $0 in fees. Or the two sides could settle the matter for some sum in between.

At least one member of the Township Treasurer's Office board of trustees has suggested that if they don't win -- or, heck, even if they do – they can appeal the ruling. So, there's a prospect of months more litigation and accompanying legal fees.

Township treasurer's offices exits only in Cook County and are an antique office, created in the 19th century to manage money and payroll for school districts that, at the time, had no way to do it themselves.

Frankly, the township school treasurer's offices are obsolete, playgrounds for political insiders and havens for corruption. Former Lyons Township Schools Treasurer Robert Healy stole millions for his agencies coffers before being caught and sentenced to nine years in prison for theft.

 These offices need to be abolished, and local legislators ought to make it a priority. Voters need to get on the backs of their representatives and senators in the Illinois General Assembly and demand elimination of the Lyons Township Schools Treasurer's Office.

It's not impossible. Back in 2007, voters in Oak Park and other communities served by the Cicero Township Schools Treasurer did just that, with the aid of a friendly state senator, Don Harmon.

This money-sucking lawsuit ought to be the last straw. The residents of Lyons Township have paid enough keeping on life support an unnecessary, obsolete unit of government.

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