Yesterday, I brought up how Huntley School Board President Shawn Green, a policeman, didn’t seem to know the difference between a criminal and a civil case.
That brought to mind a chain of events in my life that started with my being sued for practicing law without a license.
[It’s going to take me a long time to get to my point about Green, so, if you aren’t interested in part of my life story, just come back a couple of days from now for the lesson of this story.]
After all, the low point in my life (besides the disappearance of my daughter Alexandra at age 2¾ ) was when the McHenry County Bar Association sued me for practicing law without a license.
My term as McHenry County Treasurer had ended. I had not followed the career path of some county treasurers and run for sheriff. (Couldn’t picture myself in that role.)
Then Woodstock attorney Joe Conerty announced that he was not going to do tax protests anymore.
I knew that there 10% of the taxes paid to the county treasurer was paid under protest. That was about $2 million in 1971. The reason was that tax districts, including McHenry County, were levying taxes illegally.
Just to give you an example, the McHenry County Board was illegally accumulating money to build a new courthouse. The members knew they were not trusted enough to pass a referendum.
The summer of my first year as treasurer, I used the budgeting skills I had learned at the United States Bureau of the Budget to estimate the county’s beginning general fund balance at the beginning of December, the start of the budget year.
I estimated it would be about $8 million.
The Finance Committee insisted it would be zero.
It was my first year, so I presented my case and sat back and waited. The December 1st balanced turned out to be closer to $10 million. I had underestimated, but I was a lot closer than the county budget’s starting zero balance.
People who paid their county taxes under protest with Conerty got a refund for the entire amount levied for its general fund. And there were other districts that didn’t meet the technical requirements of the tax laws.
In any event, in 1971 I discovered that Conerty was going to file taxes under protest for the railroads and other large property owners. He was just shedding the small tax protesters.
“Ah ha,” my unemployed brain thought.
The paperwork for filing taxes under protest is simple.
I knew I couldn’t do the legal work, so I found a young attorney and got him to agree to handle that.
I knew lawyers couldn’t advertise (hard to believe now, isn’t it?), but I wasn’t an attorney.