Judge: No Reason to Consolidate Lawsuits
Oak Park citizens want to back D. 97's move to dismiss case.
Meanwhile, some Oak Park residents are seeking to support the district's move to get the suit tossed out.
Attorneys representing the Committee to Support Oak Park Schools as well as seven residents will ask Judge Mary L. Mikva on Friday to grant the group's request to file a brief supporting District 97's motions to dismiss. The group was formed to advocate for the passage of referendum on the April 5 ballot. The measure passed by almost 1,000 votes.
The residents are: Laura Crawford, Carollina Song, Lisa Sensat, Graham Brisben, Libbey Paul, David Giardina and Wendy Giardina.
In papers filed Tuesday, while members said they strongly opposed filing these briefs - called amici curiae or friends of the court briefs - they felt that they have constitutional rights at stake that the "school district and the board members are not in a position to represent." They did not elaborate.
Committee members also are prepared to submit relevant factual information regarding their efforts to educate the voters about the referendum, including the "likely impact on property taxes," according to the court documents.
The Committee to Support is also seeking to file the brief before June 14, the deadline for Taxpayers United of America to file documents that would explain why Mikva should allow its suit to move ahead.
The lawsuit to stop the Oak Park's referendum from taking effect was filed by Oak Park resident Noel Kuriakos and Taxpayers United in late April. About a month later, the judge blocked a request for a temporary restraining order, which would have prevented the property tax hike from taking effect. The district is due back in court June 30 to ask for the case to be tossed out.
In his ruling yesterday, Judge Moshe Jacobius said there was no sufficient grounds to consolidate the cases, a request brought by plaintiff Herbert Sorock, a Wilmette resident, and Taxpayers United.
TUA argued that both lawsuits were based on faulty ballot language that each school district used to pass recent referendums increasing property taxes. TUA said that by failing to include the Illinois state equalizer in their calculations, the districts understated the effects of the increases on homeowners.
Consolidating the two would have lessened the financial burden on Oak Park and Wilmette residents, according to TUA’s Christina Tobin.
But Rob Swain, District 97's attorney, vehemently disagreed saying it would cost more. He called it a delaying tactic that could force District 97 into making different budgeting, programming and staffing decisions for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
"They are holding both communities hostage," Swain said.
Swain, in addition, said he was confident in the end that Mikva would toss out the complaint. "She has a good understanding of the issues. She has made her thoughts and concerns about the complaint very clear," he said.