Judge Grubb denies plaintiff's day in court

Judge Gerald Grubb nipped farmer and wind farm advocate Wallace Ramsay’s class action lawsuit in the bud.

According to Ramsay’s counsel, Rene Hernandez, Grubb denied the complaint because he deemed it an equity claim. Ramsay and his wife, Jean, had filed the lawsuit on behalf of all Boone County taxpayers.

The suit alleged Boone County’s 2005 and 2006 budgets were illegal. The complaint asked for declaratory relief—seeking property tax refunds for Boone County residents. Hernandez said he’s filing a motion to amend the complaint. According to Hernandez, the amendment would seek to obtain property tax refund for the Ramsays alone. He’s confident the complaint has merit.

“We’re good on paper,” Hernandez said.

An Aug. 9 hearing was held in front of Grubb on the issue. But no action was taken because of the possibility that Grubb, a Boone County resident, might have to recuse himself.

The Boone County Board allegedly held seven illegal special meetings—including two pertaining to the budgets—over the past two years, Hernandez said. Therefore, the Ramseys’ lawsuit alleged the budgets were 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. The Nov. 29, 2004 and Nov. 28, 2005 were meetings where the Boone County Board approved the county’s 2005 and 2006 budgets.

The seven meetings in question 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 because written notice was not provided in a proper timeframe. 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.”

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

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 said, “It’s safe to say every building has $1,000 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,” he said.

Though Ramsay and Hernandez stressed the wind farm and lawsuit were two separate issues, Ramsay is spearheading Boone Heritage Wind Farm LLC. He refused to comment about whether this action was in retaliation for the county board’s decision.

From the Aug. 23-29, 2006, issue

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