Over 700 people signed up for the 2010 Annual Town Meeting. The vote on forcing the Township Board to repay in a lump sum the $700,000 borrowed improperly to build a new township hall lost 140-85. If an accurate gauge for attendance, 225 came this year.
All the air was sucked out of the 7 PM Annual Town Meeting of Grafton Township as Linda Moore’s opponents won the vote in the Special Town Meeting that started an hour before.
The Annual Town Meeting started about twenty after seven and was adjourned without any real business being done at 7:55.
Two years ago Trustee Betty Zirk made her pitch for approval of a new Grafton Township Hall. The vote was a tie and ties fail.
At issue in the earlier meeting was whether the Township Board should be mandated to repay the $700,000 loan from the Township Road District (a separate governmental entity) to build a new Township Hall in a lump sum or whether the three-year payback contained in an intergovernmental agreement reached between Road Commissioner Jack Freund and the four Trustees was good enough.
Grafton Township Clerk Harriet Ford and Moderator Jim Kerns sit at the head table. There was no township lawyer billing this year. Last year, there were two from Ancel Glink.
Jim Kearns, the same man who was elected Moderator of the last year’s meeting, which Moore’s forces dominated, won that vote against Huntley School Board member Mike Skala for the six o’clock meeting.
When the time for repayment debate came, however, supporters of the Trustees managed to frame the issue.
They seized the initiative.
A drum beat of comments were made referencing the lack audits for the last two years and, because of that, not knowing if the township had $700,000 with which to repay the loan.
[No one mentioned that just-resigned audit firm Wayne Brown & Company refused to perform the audit until Moore's separation of powers litigation was concluded. Moore won that case in which Judge Michael Caldwell ruled that the Trustees overstepped their authority.]
Both the Trustees and Moore have selection of an auditor on their dueling agendas for the next regular township meeting on Thursday, April 14th, at 7:30 at the Huntley Park District building.
(After the meetings were over, Moore insisted that the Grafton Food Pantry account had been removed from the Quick Books data base after she defeated John Rossi for Township Supervisor. She said that Wayne Brown keeps the books for the Food Pantry.)
Trustee Barb Murphy lead the attack on the lump sum motion, defending the Trustee’s actions and blaming Moore for the not repaying of the first installment of $200,000.
“The Trustees are not refusing to repay the loan. The Supervisor is,” she said.
Tammy Luecht, one of Moore’s allies, outlined how the bank will not accept partial payment of the $700,000 loan, how the township will be paying $2,600 a month in rent to the Road District, plus running up interest on the loan for the three years.
Trustee Betty Zirk tells the audience of the poor financial shape will be in if the $700,000 loan is paid back all at one time.
She also pointed out that there was $611,000 sitting in the bank that could not be spent for anything but loan repayment.
“We’re going to be very, very short of funds,” Township Trustee Betty Zirk, going on her 12th year on the Board said.
One CPA told the audience,
“One payment just appears to me, based on Ms. Moore’s own numbers, to be an incredibly bad idea.”
A woman questioned a telephone transfer of the $611,000 made by Moore.
Moore explained that she put in a money market fund so it would earn interest.
“If indeed we haven’t had an audit, any of us who run a business wouldn’t run our business that way. I don’t think we ought to ramrod paying something off (without it),” a Sun City man stated.
A second Sun City businessman immediately added, “Why haven’t we had an audit?”
A woman on the pay-back-immediately side argued, “It’s not ours to do anything with. It’s not our money. Give this money back.”
A blond woman replied, “Last year we didn’t vote for a lump sum (repayment). We don’t have a 2009 audit. A 2010 audit is due soon.”
” My son does audits and they find things wrong. I don’t know why we can’t wait until after the audit is submitted,” another woman added.
The elephant in the room was brought up by Tom Legowski (?):
“A lot of the money we don’t have is because of the litigation. I think it would be a wonderful idea if they start representing the people, rather than their own interests.”
“We’re trying to save the township from bankruptcy,” Trustee Murphy said in her second trip to the microphone.
“I’m tired of the bickering,” a life-long resident said. She said the $700,000 loan was “illegal. It is wrong.” [A story about Judge Caldwell's decision overturning the former Township Board's decision to borrow the $700,000 can be found here.]
“I don’t know how you can drain all the money. Right now, I wouldn’t trust any figures,” a Lakewood man replied.
A CPA from Lake in the Hills noted the over $65,000 a month “burn rate of cash.”
He said, “Mrs. Moore is absolutely correct (re having enough operating money), but suggested going with “what the Trustees have done. He then mentioned the quarter of million in legal fees.
“I’m absolutely not trilled with either side.”
A Huntley man observed, “We now have $611,000. If we don’t (fall) short before June (when real estate tax money comes in), we’ll have to borrow less than $700,000.
“If we hadn’t spent $485,000 in legal fees since this started, we’d have plenty of money.
An amendment was offered something during the debate to require the repayment “sixty days after completion of the audits for both years.”
A voice vote on the amendment failed.
Some of the majority who voted, "No," hold up their hands with orange arm bands visible.
The vote on the lump sum repayment failed 140-85 [I got a larger number of positive votes last night after asking for verification of the tally.]
As the tally was announced, part of the crowd cheered loudly.
Road District Attorney Patrick Coen gained favor by pointing out he was one lawyer not suing Grafton Township.
The next motion talked about personally penalizing township board members who didn’t follow the directions of the Annual Town Meeting.
Road District Attorney Coen took the floor and said,
“What you’re voting on electors don’t have the authority to do.”
The motion disappeared under the weight of that opinion.
And, at about 7:20, the six o’clock meeting was adjourned.
At that point, a lot of people started leaving the room.
Remember how the vote for the early lump sum motion was 140-128.
Mike Skala won the moderator post for the Annual Town Meeting 42-38.
Over half the people filed out during the intermission.
Bruce Augustine was an active participant in the Township Meetings.
Reports from the Township Supervisor and Road Commissioner were read.
Someone wanted to ask Moore about the audit situation, but she had stepped out of the room.
During the public comment period, Lake in the Hills’ Bruce Augustine tried to make a motion to add an agenda item to discuss the audit, but was ruled out of order by Skala.
A female ally of the Trustees said, “The Trustees have not initiated any single law suit. They did not want to spend a half million dollars on law suits. The Trustees had to pya for their defense. Please stop bringing lawsuits against (the Township). ”
She added that she’d like to have the Forensicon audit to be completed and paid for.
A man retorted, “For the last six years what the Board has done has been illegal. It was proved in court and the appellate court.
“They’re still fighting. The $611,000 could only be paid for the loan. It should not be in the General Fund.”
A young woman pointed out that the lump sum payment had been voted down at the previous meeting and added, “I’d like to find a way to force Linda Moore to get the audit done.”
Tom Halat, who was one of the people whose suit resulted in the John Rossi Township Board having acted out of accordance with state law when it borrowed the $700,000 made this reply:
Trustee Barb Murphy waits impatiently to reply to Tom Halat's comments.
“The former administration perpetrated illegal acts. Ancel Glink twice said it was an illegal act (at the Annual Meeting last year). In December, Judge Caldwell said illegal, illegal, illegal. They spent $300,000 of our tax dollars defending their illegal activities.”
It was Trustee Murphy to the microphone again.
“Hiring Pam Fender was not an illegal act. It’s just the Supervisor had to do it…(what) Mr. Rossi (and the former Township board did) wasn’t illegal. It was two items done improperly.”
Luecht took the floor saying she had read the minutes of the Township meetings and “”There was never an action taken by the Board to separate the Food Pantry from the township.”
She said she was still waiting for the Food Pantry records to be included in the audit.
Trustee Barb Murphy and another woman adjust the microphone so Trustee Betty Zirk could talk about the Grafton Township Food Panty's history.
Trustee Betty Zirk took the floor saying she was going on her 12th year and
“The Food Party never had a line item on the (Township) budget. It was housed by the Township, run by volunteers, some of our employees helping out. the Food Pantry never was part of the Township.”
A man from the other side of the room noted, “It’s been a whole year and nothing has been paid back. How can we trust people when they continually (against the voters’ wishes).
“They are a bunch of liars. What makes you think they’re going to pay it back in three years.
“Betty, you’ve been there twelve years too long.”
That earned him an admonition from Moderator Skala.
“The Trustee have attempted to pay back the money. It has been blocked by the Supervisor,” Augustine retorted.
“I’ve worked for public bodies. My understanding is there is supposed to be an audit every year. I don’t now how you can operate. I don’t understand it.”
Jim Kearns took the microphone.
“I understand that the $700,000 will be held in the Road fund for three years because the bank will not take back anything but a lump sum.
“I’d like to see everyone start getting along and stop this bull.
“You need to start growing up, you guys. That goes for everyone.
“Start doing it today!”
Another man advanced the opinion that it was “time to have a recall and start over again and get people in office to be stewards of our tax money.”
[Recall is not an option in Illinois.]
“‘Liars’ is a pretty strong statement. I’d hate to think an elected official is a liar.”
The one thing the Grafton Township Electors agreed upon was adjournment.
At this point someone moved to adjourn and the motion passed.
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Want to know how the missing part of the $700,000 was spent. Here’s the only place you’ll find out.