District 113A Board Members, Administrators Served with Lawsuits Alleging Financial Mismangement
Four school board candidates, including current Board Member Janet Hughes, filed the suit Dec. 17 against district administrators, current and former board members, an insurance company and an accounting firm.
Administrators and board members in Lemont-Bromberek Combined School District 113A were served last week with two lawsuits alleging illegal spending and concealment that resulted in the loss of $12 million in taxpayer money.
District 113A attorney James A. Petrungaro said his clients received documents pertaining to both lawsuits Wednesday.
"The district now has until early March to file a response to the complaints, which will either be an answer or motion of some sort," Petrungaro said. "I can't tell you yet which it will be, because we still have a lot of work to do."
Filed by the Center for Open Government at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, the lawsuits claim District 113A school board members "engaged or aided in illegal spending, and then took steps to conceal expenditures by draining funds legally appropriated for other purposes, all in violation of Illinois law," which allegedly resulted in the loss of $12 million in taxpayer money, the complaint said.
According to the lawsuits, the alleged misconduct took place from 2007 to 2010.
Listed as defendants in the lawsuit are: Superintendent Tim Ricker; Assistant Superintendent Mary Gricus; former Business Manager Robert Beckwith; current Board President Lisa Wright; current Board Vice President Kevin Doherty; current Board Members John Wood and Sue Murphy; and former Board Members David Leahy, Gwen O'Malley and Al Albrecht.
Also named as defendants are Lloyds Illinois Inc., an insurance broker that entered into a school treasurer's bond with Beckwith and Knutte Associates, an accounting firm responsible for the district's financial audits from 2007 to 2010. According to the complaint, defendants also include "other persons whose names are not known." However, current Board Secretary Andreas Taylor and Board Member Karen Siston were not named in the suit.
One lawsuit was filed on behalf of current school board member Janet Hughes, while the other was filed on behalf of Lemont residents Laura Reigle, Louis Emery and Duane Bradley. All four plaintiffs filed nominating petitions to run for the District 113A Board of Education in April, however Hughes was removed from the ballot Jan. 4 after the district's electoral board upheld to objections claiming she failed to properly bind her petition documents.
Hughes, who said last week she was unsure whether she would fight the decision, had yet to file appeal with the Cook County Circuit Court as of 10:30 a.m. Tuesday—the final day to do so.
Petrungaro said although a board member suing her own board is not unheard of, it is fairly uncommon. He also said he was unsure why Hughes was listed separate from the other three plaintiffs, since the complaints are identical.
"We think that's very odd," he said. "All it's going to do is cost more money for the school district to defend two identical lawsuits. Mrs. Hughes could have joined the Reigle lawsuit, or just not filed a lawsuit at all since there are three other plaintiffs."
When asked why there were two separate complaints filed, Hughes's attorney, Clint Krislov, said it was because "there were two sets of plaintiffs."