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An Illinois appellate court has ruled that Broadview trustees have the right to have their own legal counsel.
Village President Sherman Jones had appealed an earlier Cook County Circuit Court ruling that said Trustees Tara Brewer, Judy Brown-Marino, John Ealey and Diane Little had the ability to use their own lawyer for drafting legislation and other matters.
The trustees, members of the Better Broadview Party, passed the Legislative Counsel Ordinance in 2015 enlisting outside counsel, Ancel, Glink, Diamond, Bush, DiCianni & Krafthefer, to provide services like assisting with drafting ordinances and contracts, and anything else under the trustees’ purview.
The court ruled there is nothing in the Broadview village code that gives the village attorney exclusive control over the drafting of legislation or any other legislative function.
“Surely, (Jones), as the executive, cannot exert exclusive control over the legislative process,” the First District Appellate judges wrote in their verdict for the defendants.
Jones had contended that the BBP trustees were “tampering with” village code to push their own agenda.
“The legislative branch is fully entitled to make laws – and that includes changing them,” the judges wrote.
“The board is free to amend the village code and amend the duties it previously assigned to the village attorney. The board is free to authorize the use of outside counsel. There is nothing unlawful about that.”
Brown-Marino said the ruling should send a message to Jones.
“It has been established by the Appellate Court that we have every right to pass laws and that the mayor is supposed to be following them,” Brown-Marino said at this week’s Village Board meeting.
“Unfortunately, we have another lawsuit that we’re in the middle of right now, that the mayor filed against us in October, again claiming that certain things we did were usurping his executive authority. So, we’re not done yet, unfortunately.”
Jones said he does not have a problem with there being a legislative counsel for the trustees but noted that village code requires that the village attorney has to write any ordinance.
“So, they can present anything they want, but it’s got to go through the village attorney,” Jones said in a West Suburban Journal interview. “If they want to have it reviewed, that’s up to them. So what they’re doing, in essence, right now is using two attorneys to do the village work.”
Jones noted that Broadview is a strong mayor form of government and the opposition trustees are trying to turn it into a trustee form of government.
“In other words, they want to do my job,” Jones said.
“My job is to appoint attorneys. So I appoint attorneys. We have done all of our contract negotiations, union negotiations, yada, yada, but guess what? They took the legislative counsel, which is supposed to be doing legislation, to now represent them in contract negotiations. So now, we are paying two sets of attorneys. Instead of paying $200 an hour (for one attorney) we are paying $420 or whatever it is an hour for two sets of attorneys.”
He said Ancel, Glink, was paid $3,500 this month for legislative work, but what was really union negotiations at the same time the village paid the law offices of Philip M. Fornaro, the village’s legal counsel, almost $3,000 for union negotiations.
“That’s the problem and that’s what the (legal) argument was, and I just think it’s a bad decision,” Jones said. “I think the judges do not understand my argument or my position or maybe the attorney who was representing me did not properly represent what I was trying to say.”
Jones said the court battle went on for almost two years because the Better Broadview Party trustees continued to do things that the village president has historically done.
“They want to dictate who I appoint as my own counsel,” Jones said. “I want to have counsel for me and then you want to say ‘Well, it’s got to come to the board and we’ve got to approve it?’ Why would I do that if my argument is with you?”