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Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Alleging Illegal Spending in District 113A, Plaintiffs Plan to Appeal

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

Update, 12:15 p.m.

Attorneys from the Center for Open Government at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law and the law firm Krislov and Associates, which represented the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said they plan to appeal the judge's ruling.

They released the following statement Friday morning:

"As attorneys for the plaintiffs in the lawsuits against the Lemont-Bromberek Combined School District 113A board members and officials, we are disappointed by Judge Martin's dismissal of the complaints, and we strenuously disagree with Judge Martin's view that the school district's expenditures of moneys in excess of legal appropriations, and without the actions necessary to legally authorize transfers glosses over the district's undisputed violations of Illinois law."

In the statement, the attorneys said Martin's ruling 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."

Emails to plaintiffs Janet Hughes, Laura Reigle, Duane Bradley and Louis Emery have not been returned.

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Original story, 12:18 a.m.

A Cook County judge on Thursday dismissed a $12 million lawsuit alleging illegal spending and concealment in .

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.

In a hearing Thursday afternoon, Judge LeRoy K. Martin dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled, Board Member Lisa Wright confirmed.

"The judge agreed with our arguments, granted our motion and dismissed the entire case with prejudice," Wright said in an email.

Further details of the dismissal were not immediately available.

Two lawsuits, which were eventually consolidated,  by the Center for Open Government at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law on behalf of former District 113A Board Member Janet Hughes and Lemont residents Laura Reigle, Louis Emery and Duane Bradley. 

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 Thursday 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.

The original lawsuits were filed the same week all four plaintiffs  to run for the open seats on the District 113A school board during the April 2011 consolidated election. Emery dropped out of the race in February, while Hughes, Reigle and Bradley lost on Election Day.

Reigle  in the 82nd District.

Mary Pollard March 16, 2012 at 11:31 AM
Amanda, please advise when the four plaintiffs will be re-paying the district the expenses for their unfounded claims which cost the district money, pulling valuable resources from my kids and in some cases their own.
Dorothy Retzke March 16, 2012 at 02:03 PM
 The district has suffered greatly due to their frivolous lawsuit, both financially and by dividing our community.  I am very happy that it has finally been proven, not by one, but two judges, that this case had no merit.  We cannot measure the damages of lost referendum votes or mistrust of Board Members, but we can measure the financial loss this has cost our district.  How much has the district spend to defend itself against false allegations?  How many teachers could these funds bring back to stop classroom overcrowding? When can the district expect repayment by Mrs. Reigle, Mrs. Hughes, Mr. Bradley & Mr. Emery? 
Laura Ingalls March 16, 2012 at 02:07 PM
I agree Mary. Hughes, Reigle, Bradley and Emery, and Chicago Kent College of Law should repay every dime and then some. They lied and made up false accusations and they should apologize and be held accountable for those lies. These people and anyone who believed them are absolute embarrassements to Lemont. Shame on these four for filing a bogus lawsuit. Shame on those individuals who believed them. Each and every one of you should personally apologize to all the defendants whose reputations were tainted by their lies and their bogus lawsuit. Sadly the dark cloud that these people have brought to this Village will not go away any time soon. This lawsuit and their lies have damaged the reputation of Lemont and our schools. These four will never live this down and they should move from Lemont immediately to save face. They have damaged the reputation of Lemont through their lies and deceit and therefore they should not be residents here.
Amanda Luevano (Editor) March 16, 2012 at 02:22 PM
I just got off the phone with the attorney for District 113A. I'll have an update shortly with the court documents attached.
Amy Rafter March 16, 2012 at 04:21 PM
I’m sorry I missed the part where the judge said the case had no merit or that the allegations were false. What is evident is the pompousness demonstrated by the defendants that so mismanaged the finances that my child has 33 kids in her class. Let them once and for all put this to rest and tell this town that they did not do what they are accused of.
Amanda Luevano (Editor) March 16, 2012 at 05:35 PM
The story has been updated with a statement from the plaintiffs, who plan to appeal the case. PDFs of the ruling and defendants' motions are also attached to the story.
Dwayne March 16, 2012 at 07:29 PM
I agree with you wholeheartedly, Mary. These four plaintiffs, including the Center for Open Government at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, should be charged with filing a frivilous law suit. They should be made to pay the School District's attorney fees. The District can motion that up if they wish to.
Dwayne March 16, 2012 at 07:33 PM
AMEN!
Dwayne March 16, 2012 at 07:37 PM
As long as Judge Martin's ruling is based on the principle of law, the Appellate Court will uphold his decision. The plaintiffs would be stupid to pursue this any farther.
bill wills March 16, 2012 at 08:52 PM
so dwayne...that means they will pursue again
Dwayne March 17, 2012 at 12:03 PM
If they decide to go to the Illinois Supreme Court, the Court can decide whether or not they want to hear it. They would be stupid to go that far when an Appellate Court has upheld a lower court decision.

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