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Judge Dismisses D39 Board Members From Lawsuit

The school district remains the sole defendant in the case.

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.

GrossPoint June 07, 2011 at 05:16 PM
The activity at Enron, Andersen etc was considered criminal AFTER Enron went bust. Before that, Enron was a leader in Corporate Social Responsibility etc. The law is a donkey (or something like that), and if the D39 wants to find some legal nonsense to put out incorrect information, then I am all in favor Herb getting them to straighten up, by one means or another. The SERS Pension System in Illinois could default with just a hiccup from the State Legislature. Someone has to fix this mess...or we end up like Enron, Lehman, Madoff...
Quis Custodiet June 07, 2011 at 07:53 PM
I just read D39's press release from earlier today. If I am reading that correctly, it means that Herb Sorock and Christina Tobin did not even bother to file arguments against the District's Motion to Dismiss. Could that be right? If so, it means that Sorock acknowledges what everyone else has been saying all along -- he's got a loser of a case and no basis for having brought it in the first place. What a colossal waste of everyone's time!
GrossPoint June 07, 2011 at 08:07 PM
In between making press releases to discredit their opponents, Lechner and D39 might want to look at why there is no air-conditioning in many of the grade schools, and how that effects education on a 96 Degree day. Never fear, we have an award winning educational program that will be sure to address that with magic whiteboards and solar cars...
Long Time Resident June 07, 2011 at 08:26 PM
I thought about skipping this gross point, GrossPoint, but not you are making me laugh. The release on Tobin's own website is such a severe twisting of the facts as to barely resemble the actual goings on. The whiteboards were not paid for out of District 39's budget.
Quis Custodiet June 07, 2011 at 08:40 PM
GP: If you would actually read the information that the District provides to the commnuity, you would have realized that you owe everyone on this comment-board a beer at Gilson's. By the way, air-conditioning costs money. I think Herb should have to pay for it as a sanction for having brought his frivolous suit.
GrossPoint June 07, 2011 at 08:41 PM
"The whiteboards were not paid for out of District 39's budget"....That's a relief...for a minute, I thought that D39 might have its financial priorities mixed up, and be neglecting the education of students for the fashions of the day. Now I know that it is just the D39 Foundation that is prioritizes fashion over improving 3rd world HVAC systems (while the administration ignores it, and the teachers send notes to bring water bottles from home)..... blah It's 84 in Zanazibar btw, perhaps our sister school in Tanzania can send us some tips on how to get our HVAC system up to grade.
RallyCap June 08, 2011 at 02:45 AM
Tin foil hat wearer
Facts June 08, 2011 at 06:55 PM
GP - I want to to get this straight: You'd support spending several million dollars to convert 50+ year old HVAC systems for D39's six school buildings -- all for the five days each school year that A/C would be especially helpful? Just checking. I don't think anyone would contest the point that AC would be optimal on those few sweltering days that pepper Chicagoland in certain school years. D39's buildings are well-maintained, but old. I'm betting you'd be one of the first to howl over the expense of implementing full-building AC in the six Wilmette schools.
GrossPoint June 08, 2011 at 07:12 PM
Let's see, a good sized air conditioner at Sears costs $600. There are 20 classrooms or so in each of the schools. There are 4 grade schools. So 20x600x4=$48,000....or "several million dollars" once our school board added in their corruption tax to the purchase. Sensible people could come up with $48,000 to get us up to a 3rd World level of facilities. The trouble is finding sensible people, rather than union/political hacks to provide and education for our children.
Long Time Resident June 08, 2011 at 07:52 PM
GP, you really are raising the level of discourse here. Let's see, we have "corruption tax," and "union/politcal hacks." I am not sure what the former means and, last time I checked there are actual elections, held first world style in which the school board members are elected. Explain your ranting or is the heat getting to you?
GrossPoint June 08, 2011 at 08:10 PM
A corruption tax raises the price of everyday items to the amount necessary to fund the insider trading that goes on in government entities. Look at the firm that put on the gutters at local schools for example. One of the replacements ran something like $500,000 to install gutters that leak worse than the one's they replaced....or any roofing contract for a school in Illinois. We pay a higher than competitive price to fund the swindler's swindling. School boards all over Illinois are captured by hacks and insiders. Our "first world" elections get us a bankrupt SERS Pension System and 3rd world HVAC system. Aside from this thread...has anyone even considered the effect of 96 degree temperatures on education?
Momfia04 June 09, 2011 at 03:13 AM
Ahhh, the art of distraction. How did we get from Herb Sorock's ridiculous lawsuit to air conditioners again?
Margaret Mcintyre June 09, 2011 at 02:21 PM
GrossPoint is correct. To better understand the effect of the “multiplier”, take a look at the Zillow web site http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/316-Central-Ave-Wilmette-IL-60091/3376699_zpid/#{scid=hdp-site-map-bubble-address} which provides historic home prices, homes assessments and taxes paid. Take the home currently on the market for $849,000 which Zillow prices at $738,000 based on current sales for comparable homes. Scroll down to the area which shows taxes paid 2003-2009 and home assessments. Note the 2006-07 increase in assessment which also saw a decrease in taxes. Then, in 2008-09 the home experienced a $13, 974 decrease in assessed value (which is NOT the same as “market value”) while also experiencing an increase in taxes. How can this be? It’s done with a “multiplier” in order to deliver an expected/entitled amount of tax revenue to the taxing bodies (schools, library, village). Taxing bodies are allowed a certain MAXIMUM levy—but as stated in the post above, the school does not have to take the MAXIMUM. As home values continue to decline, the multiplier can only work to deliver “so much” in additional tax revenue--the $198 amount. At some point, the limits (as set by this referendum) will provide a ‘cap” on the annual increase the district can legally levy—it’s called “tax to the max” which will be the $198. Stay tuned.
GrossPoint June 09, 2011 at 02:31 PM
Momfia04, "How did we get from Herb Sorock's ridiculous lawsuit to air conditioners again?" I think it is the relationship of D39 tooting its horn about educating our children, maintaining our schools etc, vs. the reality that we have 3rd world facilities that D39 has failed to maintain and improve over the years. In my opinion, the lack of responsible adults in the education industry has got us into this condition.
Momfia04 June 09, 2011 at 03:14 PM
Gross Point - 3rd world facilities? You must not get out into the world much. Hey Margaret - so glad to see you can't stay away from the issues of Wilmette. So glad your husband's job transfer to another state has made you so happy that you just can't seem to let go of your former town. Here is a thought - let those of us who live here, pay taxes and stay involved in our schools on a daily basis make decisions. Oh wait... I think we did that with the referendum. Sour grapes and distraction do nothing for your cause but make you both look more and more ridiculous. Please keep it up - it only benefits your opponents.
GrossPoint June 09, 2011 at 03:21 PM
96 degrees without air conditioning does not strike me as the work of responsible adults in 21st century Wilmette. Those of us "who live here, pay taxes and stay involved in our school on a daily basis" might want to look at the effects of such conditions on education, rather than pecking away at anyone who disagrees with you. Quite a few in our community want to write PR for the education system, without actually evaluating it.
Momfia04 June 09, 2011 at 03:31 PM
As someone who was actually in school this week and last, I can tell you honestly it was not 96 degrees in there. Can you do the same?
Andrea Hart June 09, 2011 at 03:36 PM
Greetings Readers, I'm glad that Wilmette's education system is sparking great discussion on the site, but please let's keep the comments to constructive discussion. Personal attacks aren't allowed on the Patch sites. Thanks! Andrea
GrossPoint June 09, 2011 at 03:49 PM
I was in the school. It was really hot, but honestly, I did not bring in a set of calibrated thermometers to measure the temperature. It was really similar to the temperature outside, which was 96 per two thermometers that I typically use. Were you able to get an interior reading? What temperature do you think is best for student learning?
Momfia04 June 09, 2011 at 03:59 PM
What is best for student learning has already happened by passing the referendum.
GrossPoint June 09, 2011 at 04:13 PM
So, 96 is ok then? How about we hold class in the boiler room all year round...after all, we passed the referendum and any dissent must be out of a objection to student learning. Blowing off an unsafe condition strikes because you support raising taxes strikes me as irresponsible. The whole school district needs to get its priorities straight. Early retirement programs, bloated administrations, curriculum development paper chases...don't do much of anything to educate our children.
Momfia04 June 09, 2011 at 04:17 PM
I've already stated it was not uncomfortably hot. But go ahead and distract from the point of this discussion: Herb Sorock filed a frivolous lawsuit.
Margaret Mcintyre June 09, 2011 at 06:14 PM
Hey Mafia04: You may find this hard to believe, but I still have friends in Wilmette--and I was recently there for a week, just got home here to the solvent state of Virginia! MANY people appreciate my inside knowledge gained from serving in the elected position --not self appointed position of cheerleader for the "spend someone elses money" party. It took multiple sessions with Bill Vasilopoulos and a (former) village board president to explain to the school board how the tax multiplier actually works. I doubt if many folks who were hoodwinked into voting for the referendum really understand the implications of the permission to raise property taxes.
Wilmette Voter June 09, 2011 at 06:54 PM
This is the most entertaining board I've seen in a while! There's the "no matter what you say the school board are idiots and thieves and just like corporate execs at Enron" posts which has now moved on temp in the class. Yes, it most certainly is this current School Board's fault that in Aug, Sept and May and June, these schools are hot. Well hold on, when were they built? Umm...maybe not then. No one would say hot classes are optimal, but I'm pretty sure they inherited those because prior administrations didn't put a/c in for whatever reasons they had at the time - but seriously - what does that have to do w/ the ref? Oh nothing, just an excuse to complain again and impugn the school board. Let's add the auto industry too - w/o global warming and all the fossil fuels we burn, maybe the classes w/b cooler and our kids w/b getting a better education! Darn you FORDS!!!! Then we have the supposed former member, who doesn't even live here anymore, saying that we as voters aren't smart enough to understand what we voted for. I hold the electorate in a little higher regard. These ARE very complicated matters, and it was YOUR JOB (and is the current Board's job) to do homework and make the best decisions and recommendations on tax increase or no tax increase. I for one think the 60%+ who voted for it knew at least 2 things (i) their taxes were going up, and (ii) they were supportive of that. I hope you are happy with the equity value you made on your former Wilmette home.
GrossPoint June 09, 2011 at 07:14 PM
WV, It is a matter of priorities. Some people are interested in promoting early retirement programs for teachers and expanding curriculum development. Some people are interested in educating students and providing a safe environment for learning. The claim that the School Board may not be responsible for the physical condition of the school because your "pretty sure they inherited those" pretty much absolves our Board from any possible reproach. Adults can make better decisions than this.
Wilmette Voter June 09, 2011 at 07:47 PM
Seriously, you crack me up....we all get you didn't support the ref. I think you should donate a fan.
Informed June 09, 2011 at 10:41 PM
Golly, I really wish we had air-conditioning in all of our classrooms today.
RallyCap June 10, 2011 at 06:53 PM
No doubt! It's a trage-comedy, or perhaps a comed-agedy , in any case GP and the Tax Paying Citizens United Against All Things We Don't Like Which Changes Randomly Town by Town, a.k.a Herb's little "non-profit" hobby organization, are just too funny. It's JUST like the Kate Perry song, Hot and Cold.
Wilmette Voter June 23, 2011 at 09:48 PM
And today, the crazy people lost...bolster my faith in the legal system...
GrossPoint October 12, 2011 at 05:02 PM
What a shocker, opened my property tax bill and there is a 3.3 multiplier on the tax rate increase...much as the lawsuit stated; much as the board obscured; and much as the superintendent hid from the voters. When you write your checks, remember the actual increase is 3.3 times the number that was on the referendum (and read some of the silly comments above trying to deny that).

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