Judge Caldwell Orders Grafton Township Trustees Zirk, Murphy, LaPorta & McMahon to Approve Moore’s Lawyer as Township Attorney, Appeal Announced, Implementation Delayed

“Do we have to lose every time?” asked Donna McMahon of the Grafton Township Trustees’ counsel Thomas DiCianni, as those in the courtroom awaiting the arrival of Supervisor Linda Moore’s Rockford attorney John Nelson.

“You’ve won more than you’ve lost,” DiCianni replied to Township Trustee Gerry McMahon’s wife.

“If you win, you get something,” she continued. “If we’ve won, how come things keep getting worse?”

After the April meeting, Grafton Township Trustees Barb Murphy, Rob LaPorta and Betty Zirk confer, while Gerry McMahon reads.

Hearing Judge Michael Caldwell order the Trustees to approve Moore’s personal attorney as Grafton Township Attorney at the Board’s next meeting may have reinforced McMahon’s opinion regarding how the long-running and costly case is going.

Nelson argued he should be appointed by the Judge because “I don’t believe these parties will ever come to an agreement on a township attorney.”

DiCianni argued that this part of the case was about separation of powers, contending the Township Trustees were equivalent to the United States Congress, which has to confirm the appointment of the President’s cabinet secretaries.

The Trustees’ attorney did not question Nelson’s competence, but said the township attorney “should be providing opinions everyone would have confidence in,” that Nelson could not be that person because he viewed the situation from “the eyes of an advocate rather than a dispassionate advisor of the entire Board.”

“When somebody’s an advocate for one party or another…it takes a tremendous amount of effort to be objective.”

Former Grafton Township Attorney Joe Gottemoller, who just happened to be in the courtroom on another case, listened intently to the arguments. (Read his advice of two years ago, here.)

In his rejoinder, Nelson said,

“I think its a fair argument that the Grafton Township Board is a far cry from the United States Congress. The Supervisor is on the Board.”

He argued that Judge Caldwell did have “the authority to resolve disputes of this matter” concerning the confirmation statute.

Then Nelson pointed out that DiCianni’s firm Ancel Glink was in the same situation when Keri-Lyn Krafthefer was Grafton Township Attorney.  Caldwell dismissed her as Township Attorney.

In short, if Ancel Glink could fulfill both roles, so could Nelson.

Nelson argued that the Supervisor must have confidence in the Township Attorney and that not having a Township Attorney had “really hamstrung the township.”

Judge Caldwell’s reaction was to say that he was “sympathetic with the separation of powers” argument, but thought the analogy was “overly broad because we’re dealing here with township government, not the United States government.”

He said he was “sensitive to the argument that courts should not (intervene, but) I didn’t run for Circuit Judge for the purpose of being a Township Supervisor or Township Trustee.

“However, I do have the power to enjoin what I believe is a continuing (dispute).

“I believe the failure of the Trustees (to approve Nelson’s appointment, that it was) rejected as a pretext for continuing this dispute. I order them to approve (the appointment).”

The judge explained that when he was Woodstock City Attorney he had a reputation for telling the councilmen “things they didn’t want to hear.”

He indicated that he thought Nelson could do the same.

“I want the trustees mentioned by name in any order so (they can be) held in contempt (if they don’t follow my instructions).”

“I ask for a stay pending an appeal,” the Trustees’ attorney replied.

“It’s not right,” Caldwell said, but, after a bit of reflection, said, “I will stay the order for thirty days.”

After DiCianni drafted an order in the hall and showed it to Nelson, the two appeared before Judge Caldwell again.

Nelson pointed out that, as drafted the court order was a “negative injunction.”

“They are ordered to approve (Nelson as Township Attorney),” the Judge said.

Then, in a moment of levity, he observed,

“And the beat goes on.”

That broke me up, after which I apologized.

In the hall Nelson’s reaction like this:

“Obviously, we agree with Judge Caldwell’s decision. As we argued to the Court, Attorney Nelson’s representation of the Town of Grafton is no different than opposing counsel’s representation of Grafton Township during the pendency of the case.

“While the Trustees have every right to appeal the decision of Judge Caldwell, the appeal will prove very expensive to the taxpayers of Grafton Township.”

The order was stayed until after the appeal is completed.
I asked Trustees Betty Zirk and Barb Murphy what progress there was concerning selecting an auditor.

“We’re working on the audit,” Murphy replied. Zirk indicated it would be discussed at the Thursday, May 14th Board meeting.

Dismissed was a motion that would have prohibited the Ancel Glink law firm from representing Grafton Township, an expansion from banning Krafthefer after another attorney offered apparently free advice to the Trustees about the rejection of citizen-petitioned subjects for the Annual Town Meeting.

Also apparently decided was that Moore’s pre-litigation attorney Richard Cowan will be paid $3,400 at the next Board meeting. Cowan originally billed $5,060.


Judge Caldwell Orders Grafton Township Trustees Zirk, Murphy, LaPorta & McMahon to Approve Moore’s Lawyer as Township Attorney, Appeal Announced, Implementation Delayed — 21 Comments

  1. Let’s hope that Betty Zirk and Barb Murphy were conferring about the next morning’s muffin batter and not about Township business! The caption reads, “After the April meeting, …”

  2. Why is it that Judge Caldwell can dismiss Ancel Glick because the supervisor fired them and the trustees didn’t agree (thereby being no majority concensus on the attorney for the township), yet when the trustees don’t approve the supervisor’s choice (again, being no majority consensus), Judge Caldwell over-rules them? Does that not seem like a contradiction to his earlier ruling that they needed to agree on an attorney? Where are the checks and balances then?

  3. He said he was “sensitive to the argument that courts should not (intervene, but) I didn’t run for Circuit Judge for the purpose of being a Township Supervisor or Township Trustee.

    “However, I do have the power to enjoin what I believe is a continuing (dispute).

    “I believe the failure of the Trustees (to approve Nelson’s appointment, that it was) rejected as a pretext for continuing this dispute. I order them to approve (the appointment).”

  4. I believe the township meeting is on the 12th at the Huntley Park District at 730pm. If there is an update on this please let us know.

    Once again Judge Caldwell, however reasonable, decent and competent he may be, is running a township government because of the dysfunctional relationship between the Supervisor and the Trustees. This is not the Separation of Powers envisioned for a representative government. This is government by fiat. This is unacceptable to many residents of Grafton Township.

    Whatever the faction who elected Ms. Moore gained by stopping the new building they have more than lost in legal fees due to their inadequate vetting of her abilities. Although well intentioned, Ms. Moore has led this horror show and allowed the degeneration of the Board and the entire township to the point the Township may actually be in financial trouble. We won’t know til the audit is actually performed.

    Until the elections in 2013 I beg Ms. Moore to make peace with the proper representatives of Grafton, allow the audit, act as a true leader(not a dictator) and stop allowing Judge Caldwell to decide the fate of Grafton.

    To be fair I will beg the Trustees not to be irascible and obstructionist to every last thing Ms. Moore acts upon. The residents of the township deserve a government of the people, by the people and for the people. I know it is difficult to abide people who don’t know the responsibilities they were elected to take on but try. We will vote in 2013 and, hopefully, elect competent, calm and reasonable representation.

  5. The high legal fees are the result of the trustees attempt to remove the supervisor from office and then using the courts to stop her from doing her job. The trustees refuse to approve an auditor.

  6. The trustees refuse to approve an auditor….without interviewing the auditors first. That seems very responsible to me. I would never hire an employee without interviewing them first.

    Priest, I agree wholeheartedly. Well said.

  7. Sunshine, the trustees attempted to work around the supervisor because she wouldn’t do any kind of a job, even a bad job.

  8. Sunshine, that should read that they apparently felt that way. No I won’t be more specific, but I think the fact that they asked the judge to remove her from office supports my assertion adequately. There are a number of others in the community that feel the same way.

  9. Mike Laird always wants his brain-frozen “thoughts” to be “above” having to write common-sense specifics.

    His wife is a union-official teacher and he loves writing bash-’em rants.

  10. You may want to know.. Do you really want to compare our documented histories for bashing? Do You really think that would come out with my remarks looking like bash em rants compared to your unsubstantiated libelous remarks about the character of certain groups or individuals? I think what one will find is that I provide accurate information in response to bogus factoids dispersed by You and a couple others. One would also see that You and a couple others seem to have some personal grudge that you attempt to shroud in a call for transparency. I understand and agree with the calls for transparency. I don’t agree with pretending your vendetta against certain groups has anything to do with a desire for transparency.

    And if you didn’t have an axe to grind against those groups, why you bring my wife’s occupation into a Grafton Two thread?

  11. So…let me get this straight. The trustees were taken to court in the separation of powers suit because they refused, by majority, to fire Ancel Glink as township attorney. The judge finds that Ancel Glink could not be both the township attorney and represent the trustees at the same time so the judge fires them. Then Linda Moore suggests that Nelson be appointed as the township attorney and of course the trustees voted against that idea since he was Linda’s personal attorney. Linda, being Linda, won’t take “no” for an answer so decides to take the trustees back to court to ask the judge to appoint HER personal attorney, Mr Nelson, as the township attorney?! The judge ORDERS this to be done?! …..HUH????? The judge has just contradicted himself in these rulings. If he found it wrong then, it should be wrong now….don’t you think? Am I missing something here? I’d say it’s time for this judge to retire.

  12. Retire, or have a formal complaint lodged against him with the Judiciary Committee. He’s not following his own precident.

  13. If the judge fired AG because they were representing the trustees and the town, why did the taxpayers pay AG for this work?

  14. Nelson is representing Linda in a suit that she filed with no backing from the taxpayers. Why did the taxpayers have to pay for him, and the first lawyer Linda met with, who didn’t take the case?

  15. The nonsense in Grafton is exhausting. Both the trustees and Linda Moore are to blame with unprofessional behavior. Good riddance to all!

  16. Yes, it is exhausting.

    What’s even more exhausting to me are blanket judgments made about a group when it’s the behavior of only one or two people within that group that’s revolting. I agree that Linda has done absolutely nothing for the township. She has turned us into a laughing stock and has brought us to the verge of bankruptcy with her antics. Her behavior is disgusting. I agree that Mr. McMahon needs to keep his temper under control because his behavior brings the credibility of the rest of the board down with him. I have no issues with the others on the board. They have conducted themselves in as professional a manner as can be expected under the circumstances.

    I also find it exhausting that so many can sit behind there desktops and complain about the current system but do nothing to try to change it. They throw out lots of good ideas but when it’s time to put your money where your mouth is, there’s no response. Apathy is the ONLY reason nothing will change. THE PEOPLE have the power to make change happen. We can’t sit buy and let others make it happen for us.

  17. Seeing the light you are obviously one of the trustees and you want to justify your illegal actions and have the final word.

  18. Actually, I’m not…..but I do go to the meetings. You’re “obviously” jumping to conclusions.

  19. …and by the way, THE PEOPLE will have the final word, not the trustees and certainly not Linda Moore.

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