Grafton Township Supervisor Linda Moore and her attorney John Nelson leaving the McHenry County Courthouse the day she filed her separation of powers suit.
I managed to stay awake during the Linda Moore part of the trial today. It didn’t start until shortly after 1 PM because Moore attorney John Nelson wanted a court reporter present.
Once in a while some new information popped up, such as her wanting the judge to name Rockford-area attorney John Nelson to replace Keri-Lyn Krafthefer as Grafton Township Attorney.
She wants Judge Michael Caldwell to prohibit anyone but the township assessor, supervisor and road commissioner from contacting the township attorney.
And, then there was the puzzler that Krafthefer wasn’t even named attorney; another Ancel Glink attorney, Scott Puma, whom some will know as the Crystal Lake Park District or the Village of Island Lake attorney.
I’ve never seen him at a Grafton Township meeting, but one of the court watchers told me he had attended one meeting after his appointment by Township Supervisor Moore.
As far as the other remedies she seeks, it sounds as if she wants to run things the way her predecessor John Rossi did.
The Township Trustees’ attorney Thomas G. DiCianni agreed that the case was about “separation of powers.” Nice to know the opponents at least agree on a description of the suit.
But he noted that township and municipal governments in Illinois a merger of the executive and legislative branches.
The fact that a court reporter is typing away as people talk probably means that the loser will appeal…maybe all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court.
DiCianni charged that Moore held a view of her authority as having “pretty much” as having “dictatorial powers,” which he said was “not supported by the law.”
The dispute he suggested had “brought township government to a standstill.”
DiCianni listed what I might call “horribles,” which included
- agenda preparation without input from the Trustees
- refusal to pay bills within 30 days,
- “frustrating board notices”
- “terminating township employees without authority”
- withholding an audit proposal from the board and hiring a different firm
- withholding the draft audit for about two months, while sharing it with members of the public
The food pantry came up, as did changes in the senior and disabled bus operation, canceling credit cards in the Assessor’s office and something about direct deposit of employee pay.
And, then there was the catchall
- “causing intolerable dysfunction within the township”
- “harassing the Township Clerk”
- “frivolous Freedom of Information requests” and
- I’m sure there were more shortcomings noted.
In any event, with this as background the Ancel Glink partner said that Pam Fender had been hired to fix all of that.
“The evidence will show the board has acted appropriately, has acted in the public interest”…to fight the “obstinance” of the Township Supervisor.
Moore was then put on the stand by her lawyer.
She related the hostility of Rossi, who left no written operating procedures and erased all records from the township laptop computer. Another one had headings on it about the food pantry, but no data.
She told how she had to pay people her second day on the job and how a Harris bank employee named Shannon helped her make direct deposits to those on the township payroll.
After the first meeting, she related that Dan Ziller, Sr., had suggested at the American Legion, where apparently township officials go to socialize after meetings, that she approach Trustee Betty Zirk to seek cooperation.
Reluctantly, she did.
Trustee Betty Zirk
Zirk’s response, according to Moore:
“Absolutely not. I’m going to watch everything you do and keep track of every mistake you make.”
Zirk came into the office a couple of times a week to watch what was going on.
The topic turned to the number of employees on her payroll when Moore took office.
Seven, but two others had been terminated before Rossi left office in May.
“Four ladies (were) working as dispatchers,” there were three drivers and the assistant supervisor.
“I observed what they were doing and I saw we were overstaffed.”
The dispatchers were printing off maps for every trip, although most of the riders were not new.
Moore bought GPS machines and the drivers never asked for a map after that.
“I reduced their hours,” Moore continued.
“Since the assistant to the Supervisor had been terminated the day before I took office, I replaced her with Trudy Jurs,” who had held the job ten years before Rossi took office.
Jurs answered the phone, helped enter bills, handled IMRF (pension system), some payroll and helped prepare board packets, Moore related.
Township Attorney Joe Gottemoller delivering his oral resignation. He noted the Township Board needed to act to transfer assets to the Grafton Township Food Pantry, if that is what they desired.
By the time Moore started cutting back on unneeded employees, Joe Gottemoller was Township Attorney.
Moore had fired the previous Township Attorney the day she took office, but he continued representing the Township Trustees in the township hall case in which Moore was one of the original litigants.
How did it work out with fewer employees?
Bill payment and bus service functions were explained. Moore pointed out that service was provided Sun City residents outside of Grafton Township and, while the Village of Huntley had helped pay for it, “it doesn’t cover the costs. It just helps.”
“We were able to handle the workload between my assistant and myself without any other help.”
And the relationship with the Trustees?
“It deteriorated over time,” Moore explained.
“Some of their behavior was outright hostile at public meetings. At one point Trustee (Rob) LaPorta stood up and screamed in my face to ‘Shut up!’”
“They do not communicate with me.
“We have dueling agendas for every meeting. They rearrange the agendas.
“The emails got to be so hostile that I discontinued them.
“Trustee LaPorta ordered me not to step on his property.
Access to financial documents on QuickBooks was discussed. The Trustees wanted “read only” access, which LaPorta had said was possible.
Moore said when she contacted QuickBooks she had been told it was not possible.
“I don’t know of any other township that does it.”
“Is there any financial report that the Trustees have requested that you didn’t provide?” her attorney John Nelson asked.
It was 1:55 in the afternoon. Moore took off her jacket.
Asked about Township Administrator Pam Fender’s job description, Moore replied, “The nature of the job description is the same as the nature of my job as Supervisor.”
Township Administrator at a township board meeting.
What followed was a brief description of what happened after Fender was hired by the Trustees.
“She was acting as if she was my supervisor. She was giving verbal, written (instructions)… Four times in a row within 15 minutes while I was trying to address a crisis situation in transportation.”
“Have you been able to interface and work with her?” Nelson asked.
“No, I haven’t been able to.”
The question of minutes came up.
“More than a dozen sets of minutes that either have not been presented for approval or approved by the board.”
The Ancel Glink attorney who shows up most often is Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, seen on the left.
Moore’s attempt to terminate Ancel Glink because of insufficient funds came up.
“They refused to be terminated,” Moore explained.
Moore also tried to fire Fender, but, “according to legal advice,” continued paying her.
“Were you forcibly removed from your office?” was the next question.
Moore told of Fender, Zirk and a locksmith coming at 5:30 one night while she was still working.
“I kept on working and ignored them and they left.”
The next meeting the Township Board “instructed Pam Fender to move my equipment and files to another office.”
When they were doing so, “I called the police upon your advice. The police did not follow your advice. Keri-Lyn sent a letter, too.
“They took me out of my office.
She then told of how Fender shuffled people around in the township office complex.
Next came the revelation that the township laptop left her by outgoing Township Supervisor Rossi was wiped clean and did “not even have an operating system.”
Information had been removed from the desktop computer as well. It was so unreliable that Moore bought a new one at WalMart with General Assistance funds.
Earlier in the hearing, DiCianni had conceded that Moore has total control of General Assistance.
She explained her computer back-up procedure was to load all the information onto removable thumbnail drives, take them home every night and bring them back the next morning.
Fender brought in a computer tech from Leading IT who apparently worked on the General Assistance Fund-purchased computer. He “had the password and had deleted visual General Assistance off the computer.”
Moore also told of the server, which stores information from multiple computers, was removed from the office “after hours.” This occurred after Judge Caldwell had order Moore returned to her offices with everything else to remain as it had been when things were peaceable. (I think that was his word in court, although it doesn’t seem to fit too well.)
“The next morning when I came in the server was gone.”
“Did you delete any information from that server?” asked her lawyer.
Asked about the current use of the computers, Moore told of the laptop “working partially,” but not handling the “financial software work very well.”
Trustee Gerry McMahon makes a point.
“The desktop at my house is where I do the financial work,” she explained.
Working at home, Moore said, was suggested by Trustee Gerry McMahon in a public meeting.
Asked about her concerns about financial matters, Moore pointed out that she was “the only person bonded for township funds. My office to this date is not secure because I do not know who had made copies of the keys and has access. I would not be able to prevent anyone from hacking into the computer…writing themselves checks.”
On matters concerning locks, Moore said the day she took office, the landlord, the Township Road Commissioner came to her and asked if she wanted the locks changed. She did and they were.
Moore was asked if she had keys to other offices, such as the Clerk’s office and she said she didn’t.
A little discussion was held about the Grafton Township Food Pantry, which was started by Jack Brunschon in 1989. Moore had little direct knowledge, so little information was allowed into the record. Food, shelving and freezers were moved out into a Kane County Huntley location last August.
She did report that township tax dollars paid for the electricity, as well as pest control. In the minutes Moore had found that salaries came from tax dollars, too.
Grafton Township Supervisor Linda Moore
When asked about “interference with General Assistance by Pam Fender,” Moore came up with some examples, including a photo her husband took of a post-it not with a General Assistance applicant’s phone number.
After Fender moved Moore to the Clerk’s office, she began answering the numbers listed in the phone book for the Grafton Township Supervisor and “Transportation.”
“I informed her she was not authorized to take any calls. She disagreed with me and continued to do so.”
Fender also opened all the mail. Some did not get to Moore, she reported, because she first saw it in township board packets.
DiCianni took front and center, pointing out that (even) one of Moore’s running mates (Gerry McMahon) had turned against her.
He took her through a series of questions about her view of her authority, which pretty well tracked her requests for relief in the suit.
Then, the strangest thing happened.
The court hearing starting sounding like a township budget hearing.
Using draft minutes because there are no official minutes the Ancel Glink litigator tried to get Moore to admit she had made mistakes.
I admit to having walked out on one of the budget hearings because it was so boring and this was no improvement in the category of excitement.
The most significant thing I remember was that a second budget hearing, Trustee Betty Zirk admitted that she had plugged in the wrong number and the board started over.
Moore pointed that out.
What relevance this has to anything being considered I could not discern. Perhaps I shall learn more at 10 AM Thursday.
There was one unexpected thing.
While DiCianni was asking budget questions, Moore started talking about the tentative budget that she was presenting at Thursday night’s township board meeting.
She described is as “a work in progress.”
I’ve spent enough time in court to know one never offers anything that is not requested. This action broke that basic rule.
Shortly after 4, the judge had his bailiff make three copies and, almost immediately thereafter, court was adjourned for the day.
Just as well. My eyes were glazing over, the benches were as hard as any church pews and I was ready to drive home.
I suppose that budget will be in the board packet for tomorrow night, but, I’ll be elsewhere, so interested readers will have to go see what it says and how the Trustees act for themselves.