After listening to five days of testimony in the Grafton Township Separation of Powers case, why does Rodney King’s famous quote come to mind?
“Can we all get along?”
Obviously, not in Grafton Township.
The question is why not?
Most observers believe the fight is all about the township trustees having lost their leader John Rossi and, with the help of a taxpayer lawsuit in which to-be Township Supervisor Linda Moore was a plaintiff until she took office, the loss of their planned new township hall.
Both Trustees Rob LaPorta and Betty Zirk have testified under oath that is not the reason for the ongoing fight.
Indeed there was this interchange between the Trustees’ attorney, Tom DiCianni, and Zirk on the last day of testimony in the case after Moore attorney John Nelson completed his cross examination:
“The problems you had with Ms. Moore had nothing to do with the town hall, right?”
In today’s article, I’ll lay out testimony on the last day of court proceedings about the conduct of township board meetings.
Betty Zirk was on the stand first.
After questioning Zirk about the dire condition of township finances, Moore attorney Nelson asked the twelve-year trustee about how meetings were conducted by her first township supervisor, Millie Ruth.
“Things went smoothly,” Zirk explained, saying they lasted an hour to an hour and a half.
“When Mr. Rossi was supervisor, he was in charge, wasn’t he?” Nelson continued.
“No, he wasn’t,” she replied. “He was in charge but he had trustees watching over him. I helped him with the book work…I was making the deposits for him.”
“Whatever Mr. Rossi wanted, you found you wanted?” Nelson asked.
“Not all the time.”
Nelson asked for an example and a date, saying, “We’ll look in the minutes and check it out.”
“We didn’t always agree. We’d negotiate and make things work out.”
You will remember what I would call the “list of horribles” in which Zirk outlined her problems with Moore. [See “Another ‘Linda Moore Must Go’ Day in Woodstock.”]
I think it safe to say that Grafton Township meetings are contentious.
Enter Nunda Township Supervisor John Heisler.
While Grafton Township is located in the southwestern part of Crystal Lake and points west and south to Huntley, Nunda comprises northern Crystal Lake to southern McHenry along the Lake County line.
Heisler is a veteran public official, having served eight years on the county board and being in his 10th year as township supervisor. A CPA, he audited public entities as far back as the 1960’s when he audited my books when I was McHenry County Treasurer. He’s examined banks for the Federal government and he was also a finalist for the position of Auditor General for the State of Wisconsin.
To say that he is a “respected public official” is an understatement and, as you will see, Judge Michael Caldwell wanted to hear what he had to say.
Nelson pitched him a softball first, asking him to describe a typical meeting.
Heisler said they “last less than an hour,” unless there is “a teaching opportunity or a program or levies.”
He was asked who prepared the agendas.
He said he bases those agendas on what he knows is coming up or should be considered and that he considers requests from other elected officials.
“The meetings are primarily to approve the bills,” he said.
Nelson asked Heisler “the procedure with providing information to trustees.”
This drew an objection concerning relevancy from DiCianni.
Nelson pointed out in asking for injunctive relief, “testimony from an experienced supervisor” could be useful.
Judge Michael Caldwell’s ruling:
Heisler said he gave his trustees “three or four days to come in and review invoices.”
“During office hours?” Nelson inquired.
“I ask them and they do.”
“Who prepares the budget?”
“Those same three department heads prepare their budgets and submit it to me.”
Heisler explained that there have been “work sessions” on the budget.
He also prepares the tax levies.
“I prepare the tax levies for the entire township. We have a public hearing and they’re approved thirty days after the posting.”
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