The seven board members of Wilmette School District 39 will not be named as individual defendants in a , according to an order by a Cook County judge.
At a county courthouse on Monday morning, Associate Judge Rita M. Novak granted a motion to dismiss each board member of District 39 from serving as an individual defendant in a lawsuit filed recently by Wilmette resident Herbert Sorock. Instead, the district will be named as the defendant.
A hearing for a temporary restraining order and injunction against the has also been set for June 23, giving the plaintiff a chance to avert the property tax hike before July 1.
“The judge made it clear that it's something that wasn't appropriate,” said the district's superintendent, Ray Lechner. Meanwhile, the district filed a motion to dismiss the legal battle entirely Monday morning.
“The whole lawsuit is frivolous,” Lechner added. “We hope that she [Judge Novak] will dismiss the rest of the case as well.”
Andrew Speigel, Sorock's lawyer, told Patch: “From a tax perspective, it seems odd that public officials would give themselves immunity to do whatever they want.”
Sorock, a member of Taxpayers United of America, wanted each board member to be named as a defendant in order to avoid having taxpayers foot the cost of the school district's legal counsel.
The heart of the lawsuit lies in District 39's successful campaign to increase property taxes by $6.375 million in order fill a projected $5.5 million spending gap. The with 63.1 percent of the vote on April 5, but Sorock contends the school board intentionally used wording in the ballot question to make the tax increase look less extreme.
The ballot cited the amount of the increase as $58 for every $1,000 of property taxes paid, or $58.80 increase for every $100,000 of the estimated value of a home.
According to a statement by Cook County Township Assessor Ali ElSaffar in March, if District 39 had factored in the the Illinois state equalizer, the figure would be $198.16 for every $100,000.
Wilmette's school board maintains that the language used was accurate.
Regarding Novak's decision, Sorock said he wasn't surprised and that the legal process “has to take its course. The judge has granted both parties time to prepare their briefs.”
Judge Novak will hear the motion for a temporary restraining order at 11:15 a.m. June 23 in courtroom 2402 at the Daley Center in Chicago. A status hearing has also been set for 10 a.m. June 9, but both parties need not appear if briefs are sent in by June 8.