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Attorneys File Appeal in Lawsuit Against District 113A Officials

The original complaint—filed in 2010 by former board member Janet Hughes and Lemont residents Laura Reigle, Duane Bradley and Louis Emery—was dismissed with prejudice in March.

A former school board member and three Lemont residents filed an appeal Friday in their $12 million lawsuit alleging illegal spending and concealment in .

Natalie Potts, executive director of the Center for Open Government IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, confirmed that attorney Clint Krislov appeared in Cook County appellate court on behalf of former District 113A board member Janet Hughes and Lemont residents Laura Reigle, Duane Bradley and Louis Emery to challenge the .

"Appeals take several months to get going, so we're in the beginning of that process," Potts said. "We'll file an appeallate brief this summer, and the defendants will get the chance to respond. We'll expect a decision this summer or fall."

The complaint, originally filed in December 2010, claimed current and former district administrators and board members "" from 2007 to 2010, "and then took steps to conceal expenditures by draining funds legally appropriated for other purposes," which allegedly resulted in the loss of $12 million in taxpayer money.

Two lawsuits, which were eventually consolidated,  by the Center for Open Government on behalf of Hughes, Reigle, Bradley and Emery. 

Listed as defendants in the lawsuit were former Superintendent Tim Ricker; Assistant Superintendent Mary Gricus; former Business Manager Robert Beckwith; current Board Members Lisa Wright and Kevin Doherty; and former Board Members John Wood, Sue Murphy, David Leahy, Gwen O'Malley and Al Albrecht.

Also named as defendants were Knutte Associates, an accounting firm responsible for the district's financial audits from 2007 to 2010, and Lloyds London, the insurance firm that entered into an agreement with Beckwith in 2005.

According to court documents, the plaintiffs alleged that District 113A board members and employees "repeatedly caused monies from the district's working cash fund to be diverted or otherwise used in violation of law and without proper notice having been given to District 113A taxpayers."

The lawsuits claimed that the district's financial statements from 2007 to 2009 showed the district spent more than $3 million more than was authorized in the board-approved budgets.

The lawsuits also alleged that representatives from Knutte and Associates, which performed audits of the district's financial statements for fiscal years 2007 to 2009, were aware of legal violations and aided in wrongdoing by providing clean audits of the district's financial statements.

The complaint dismissed last month by Judge Leroy K. Martin was an amended version of the original lawsuit. The initial suit  by Cook County Judge Rita M. Novak, who ruled that the complaint could be refiled with more particularity as to each defendant's actions, and whether they are being sued in their personal or official capacity.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint Aug. 29.

District 113A attorney James Petrungaro issued the following statement after the lawsuit was dismissed last month:

"The school district and individual defendants are very pleased with the court’s ruling and welcome the complete dismissal of the lawsuits. The decision affirms that the district board members and administrators acted completely within the law. It’s unfortunate that so much of the district’s time and resources had to be devoted to lawsuits that the court decided lacked any merit."

In the statement, the plaintiffs' attorneys said the ruling of Cook County Judge LeRoy K. Martin viewed unapproved transfers as a "budgeting matter," and did not determine whether district officials violated the law.

"The reason that this district is short of cash is because people spent its working cash fund for other purposes, and left it on the books as if it was still there," the attorneys said in the release. "School districts that spend their taxpayers' money beyond what is legally authorized disserve their constituents and violate the law...We will appeal the ruling and ask to enforce the law, which imposes liability for violating the law.

"We are confident that the appellate court will reaffirm taxpayer standing, declare the Illinois school finance laws to be not mere suggestions and hold that those who willfully violate the school finance laws are personally liable to the district."

Steve Larek April 14, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Janet Hughes, Laura Reigle, Duane Bradley and Louis Emery, still merrily pissing away our tax money--money that should be spent on the education of children. How does one properly express the contempt that these four deserve? The litigation is brought by the Center for Open Government, i.e.the Gang of Four is getting students to work (free?) while our tax money must be spent to defend against the action. The following is from the web page of the Center for Open Government. The Center for Open Government is housed in the Law Offices of Chicago-Kent as part of the school's clinical education program. Under the supervision of the Center Director, students interview and counsel clients, conduct factual investigation and legal research, develop case strategies, collect and analyze documents, and assist in the litigation. Be sure to give the neighbors your "good wishes" when you see them around town.
Nora Simons April 15, 2012 at 03:43 AM
So Louie Emeree, Dwanee, Lara, and Jannet are suing for the 15th time. How much 113a money has been wasted on legal fees? Have they always had a student clinic law firm doing their work because now it's making sense? Free work by practicing students led by people who don't care about the actual district but just getting help for their cause is not a good mix. However, the student lawyers haven't been able to get the lawsuit to stick, which means the student lawyers supervisiors-Kent School of Law-is therefore at fault since they aren't meeting No Child Left Behind of 93% of students meeting or exceeding. Clint Krislov can file a suit for Kent Law yet clearly they are not meeting NCLB. But the biggest question would be why does this lawsuit keeping coming back up? If this 113a lawsuit has failed 32 times and never stuck then Kent School of Law is at 0%. Law students at Kent, you should hope that none of the parents in Lemont own really good law firms that you hope to apply at. And how is all of this still around?
Nora Simons April 15, 2012 at 04:05 AM
Question for any other lawyers or "student law firms" out there...do our parents have any grounds to file a lawsuit against these four people. Or do the teachers in this district have a leg to stand on in a lawsuit (Kent school of law sorry you can't change your mind realizing you had a better one there...)
Laura Ingalls April 15, 2012 at 05:46 AM
Further proof that Hughes, Reigle, Bradley and Emery may possibility be four of the least intelligent people in the village. Although many people already knew this if they ever had a 10 second or longer conversation with any of them. They have been told twice that their lawsuit is a farce yet they continue to file lawsuits or an appeal. They continue to take money out of the classrooms while they haven't spent a dime of their own money. No chance they would be doing this if they actually had to spend any of their own money rather than waste taxpayers' money. Good luck ever getting elected to any public office. There is a reason that Reigle was only able to raise approx. $17 for her election against Durkin - because basically no one supports her. How did that election go for you Reigle? The Lemont tea party really did wonders to help get you elected. Good luck having anyone respect you outside of your handful of fellow wingnut conspiracy theorists aka your fellow tea party patriots. Please understand that the majority of the village would donate to pay for all of your moving expenses to get the four of you to leave the village. Start packing your bags and let us know when we should send over the moving trucks.
Jorg Manteno April 16, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Interesting points Mr. Larek. So basicly Kent Law School is making money/profiting from this frivolous lawsuit. The Law School profits from the students' tuition money and in return must provide these students with a lawsuit to learn/work on for a class project. I would be interested to know how much this has cost the taxpayers of Lemont for this frivolous suit. Has it been over $100,000-over $200,000? I noticed on the district's website that the insurance that the school has to cover lawsuits is over $260,000 a year. How much has this increased since the frivolous suit was filed and how much is the districts deductible before the legal insurance pays? How much has been wasted on FOIA's, staff salaries, and other increased costs? This money could have been used on books and other resources for the children of this district. Could a local lawyer file a frivolous suit against the plaintiffs to recoup this lost money on behalf of the taxpayers of Lemont? That would be justice.
Amanda Luevano (Editor) April 16, 2012 at 03:08 PM
I've been asked to clear something up: The bills for the legal fees go through the district's insurance company. The district does pay for insurance to cover litigation against the board, but technically the district isn't receiving the invoices each month from James Petrungaro, the attorney representing them in this case. Any further questions, please email me at amanda@patch.com.
Jorg Manteno April 16, 2012 at 04:44 PM
I thought that the school has a deductible to meet before the insurance covered the bills. Is that true (I thought I heard $50,000)? Do you know if the legal insurance has increased since this lawsuit was filed and if so, by how much? The district is still paying for all of Dr. Ricker expenses regarding this lawsuit (when he has to meet with the attorney)-does the legal insurance cover this or is that billed seperate? How there been an increase in the audit fees since this lawsuit-I heard over $40,000? I thought I also heard that the FOIA's cost the taxpayers over $50,000. As a taxpayer, I would find it interesting to know what this frivolous suit has cost the community.

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