Boone County residents sue County Board, Treasurer

Attorney Rene Hernandez filed a class-action lawsuit against the Boone County Board and County Treasurer Carolynn Knox on behalf of former Boone County Board member Wallace Ramsay and his wife, Jean. Hernandez said the Ramsays filed suit alleging the county’s 2005 and 2006 budgets were approved in violation of Illinois law.

“This action is take back the illegal government action,” he said.

According to Hernandez, the County Board has held seven allegedly illegal special meetings—including two pertaining to the budgets—over the past two years. Therefore, Hernandez asserts, the approval of the budgets is null and void. The complaint states the following special Boone County Board meetings were allegedly illegal: Nov. 29, 2004; Feb. 23, July 19, Aug. 30 and Nov. 28, 2005; as well as March 29 and May 23, 2006.

Nov. 29, 2004, and Nov. 28, 2005, were meetings where the Boone County Board approved the County’s 2005 and 2006 budgets. The complaint asks for declaratory relief, seeking property tax refunds for Boone County residents, who are being represented by the Ramsays.

The seven allegedly improper meetings were discovered after Boone County State’s Attorney Jim Hursh recommended County Board members reconsider their approval of Heritage Wind Farm LLC—spearheaded by Ramsay. Hursh said the May 23, 2006, special meeting, during which that decision was made, was improper. According to the complaint, Hursh “actively sought to declare a Special Meeting called by the Boone County Board as being illegal and not in compliance with State Statutes.” Appropriate notice was supposedly not given, as is the case with the meetings Henandez and the Ramseys have called into question.

Hursh refused to expound on the issue: “I don’t comment on pending cases.”

Hernandez said he’s using Hursh’s argument to justify the lawsuit. Hernandez cites Illinois Compiled Statute 55ILCS 5/2-1002: “Special meetings of the Board shall be held only when requested by at least one-third of the members of the board…which request shall be in writing, addressed to the clerk of the board, and specifying the time and place of such meeting…”

Hernandez was unable to quantify the potential financial impact on the county, but made an educated guess: “It’s safe to say every building has $1,000s of taxes on it.”

An injunction hearing is scheduled for Aug. 9. Hernandez predicted the outcome, if the injunction is granted: “I believe what will happen is the county will scramble to find funding.”

Ramsay and Hernandez stressed the wind farm and lawsuit were two separate issues. Ramsay refused to comment about whether this action was in retaliation for the County Board’s decision, but commented that he was acting in the best interests of Boone County residents: “We need to bring (the County Board) into control. (Boone County residents) have a right to a proper government.”

He alleged “everyone in this county is unhappy” with the county’s leadership.

Though he’s not handling the case, Hernandez noted a hearing regarding the County Board’s turnabout on the wind farm issue is scheduled for Aug. 11.

From the Aug. 9-15, 2006, issue

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