Sheriff Gary Caruana files suit against Winnebago County Board
By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD — Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana, on Friday, filed a lawsuit against the county board alleging that it passed an illegal 2018 budget.
The suit comes after the board voted Thursday to change the power structure of county government, shifting a significant portion of Haney’s responsibilities to County Administrator Carla Paschal.
Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney and Treasurer Sue Goral are also named in the complaint which, in part, alleges that the board did not properly fund the sheriff’s office according to state statute.
“The total proposed budget for FY2018 did not provide necessary funding of all Winnebago County Sheriff’s responsibilities in violation of 55 ILCS-1106,” the suit reads. “No other elected County Office was required to cut 13.1 % of its upcoming budget, or required to cut $4.3 million dollars from its current budget.”
Caruana is represented by Terry Ekl, who was appointed by Judge Lisa Fabiano after it was determined it was a conflict for the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office to represent both the board and the sheriff.
“This started in the fall of 2018, when the county board inexplicably decided in their wisdom, or lack thereof, to cut the sheriff’s budget by $4.3 million,” Ekl said at a news conference Friday morning. “That’s when I was appointed to represent Gary. And for over a year and a half, we tried to work with the county board. We tried to explain to them what impact these types of cuts would have on public safety. That’s what are talking about here. Gary’s job as sheriff of Winnebago County is to protect the people of this county.”
Ekl said the amount of cuts that were imposed by the county board would adversely affect the sheriff’s ability to do his job.
The suit is asking the court to award reasonable financial relief and court costs. R.