UPDATED: Lawsuit dismissed, policy review to follow

Lauren Grimaldi, News Editor

October 31, the Board of Education received notice that the Illinois Appellate Court has dismissed the lawsuit brought on the school by Tony Peraica and the Taxpayers United of America.

Peraica and Taxpayers United challenged the educational tax fund rate which voters rejected in the spring of 2011 via a referendum. They also made claims that the district violated provisions of many different codes and documents, including the Illinois Property Tax Code, the Illinois Election Code, and free speech provisions in the Constitution of the United States of America.

The lawsuit was dismissed in whole; however, the plaintiffs are free to seek a re-hearing with the  Appellate Court or the Illinois Supreme Court.

“The district is pleased by the Appellate Court’s decision, and we hope the decisiveness of the decision discourages Mr. Peraica and Taxpayers United from further appeals. This litigation diverts the District from its educational mission and is a waste of the District’s time and the taxpayers’ money,” Board of Education President Matthew Sinde said in the press release regarding the dismissal of the case.

Sinde noted that the same group (Peracia and Taxpayers United) had the same lawsuit with Wilmette and Oak Park.

“They could appeal the decision to the Illinois Supreme Court; but what has happened before is the Supreme Court could refuse it, just like the Illinois Court of Appeals [did],” Sinde said.

However, there are many options for the Illinois Supreme Court if they decide to appealed, Sinde explained. They can refuse to hear it, take the written briefs and form a decision from that, or have Peracia and Taxpayers United testify before the Supreme Court.

Ultimately, Sinde and the school board know that it’s up to the court to decide if the hypothetical appeal would be plausible.

“Two courts have already said no, and the appeal court didn’t even hear the arguments,” Sinde said. “So I hope that better heads will prevail.”

Sinde indicated that the current board hopes to avoid similar problems in the future and that he is planning for the board’s policy committee to review the matter.

In terms of what happened during the 2011 referendum, Sinde realizes that there will need to be some sort of internal inquiry done by the full board. By this, he means that the board policy committee will need to look at what caused the lawsuits and make changes from there if any are needed. In the end, any changes that are made will need to be approved by the board.

“But really, I think that we just need to look at it and see how is a high school going to handle a referendum that’s going to be voted by the public,” Sidne said. “[Look at] what are the procedures and policies in place to make sure that you don’t set yourself up like that again.”

In the end, the board is happy about the appellate court case dismissal. However, there were some factors that Sinde deemed unfair.

“I’m not really happy with what I call frivolous lawsuits,” Sinde said. “Even though our lawsuit was covered by insurance we had to pay the first $10,000 which could have gone somewhere else.”

He noted, as well, that the school board presidents of Willmette and Oak Park felt the same way.