Since April elections led to a sharply divided government, the once-sleepy Grafton Township has become like Navy Pier on New Year's Eve.
Township business has degenerated into one political dispute after another, as recently elected Supervisor Linda Moore clashed with the four-member board of trustees, all but one of them holdovers from before the election.
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In the latest twist, the trustees, after voting unanimously to censure Moore, asked the McHenry County state's attorney's office to look into allegations of impropriety by Moore.
Trustees say Moore tampered with mail addressed to them, the township clerk and the Grafton Township Food Pantry; allowed unauthorized persons to access the clerk's files; refused to pay about $5,000 owed to township legal counsel; and made unauthorized changes to township accounting entries.
"We had put together a list of 30 items that the supervisor either did wrong or was doing wrong," Trustee Rob LaPorta said. "We said please review these items, we have concerns over this."
Moore challenged the trustees to produce specifics and said they did not raise the issues with her before issuing a formal censure and contacting the state's attorney.
"How do you respond to a general innuendo if you don't know what they're specifically concerned with?" Moore said. "They list a lot of things they're not happy about, but they haven't asked to sit down with me."
Former township attorney Jim Kelly said his firm was owed $5,000 for several months before it finally was paid in December.
Moore says she is not the only Grafton Township official who is the subject of a complaint with the state's attorney.
"I've been informed there is a state's attorney's investigation into the trustees regarding secret meetings," Moore said, adding that she didn't file the complaint.
Trustees, upset Moore has refused to put certain items on board agendas, have skipped several recent meetings in protest, holding separate special meetings to conduct township business.
Trustee Gerry McMahon said an investigator contacted him regarding a complaint against the trustees. McMahon says he told the investigator he will only attend meetings convened by a majority of the township board.
"I don't want to go to a meeting called by Linda Moore ... don't care about anything she has on the agenda," McMahon said.
Again, Moore pressed her opponents for specifics on the agenda items they want and said it has been difficult to conduct township business with the no-shows.
"How do you a work with a board that has boycotted four meetings in November?" Moore said.
First Assistant State's Attorney Tom Carroll said his office has received Open Meetings Act complaints relating to the township, but could not confirm whether the state's attorney is investigating the more serious grievances.
The state's attorney complaints cap a tumultuous year of township politics. The rift began about a year ago during the Republican primary, which pitted Moore against incumbent John Rossi.
Moore turned the race into a referendum on a proposed $3.5 million township hall and won. Although all four trustees supported the new building, a lawsuit filed by Moore and other residents has so far been successful in stalling construction.
In the aftermath of the election, about 140 township residents attended a heated April meeting on the proposed building, voting first against erecting a new township hall, then in favor of awarding contracts for the project.
The mixed outcome was rendered moot less than a month later, when a McHenry County judge granted an injunction stopping construction.
Two months after taking office, Moore terminated four employees, saying they had been "basically sitting in a desk with nothing to do." Trustees accused her of cleaning house and putting her own people in place.
While construction of the new township hall remained in limbo, trustees in July joined Moore in canceling the bank loan that would have paid for it. Both sides said the move would save on interest while the project's future remained in doubt.
In August, McHenry County Clerk Kathy Schultz confirmed voters would get to weigh in on whether to build a new township hall on the November 2010 ballot. An appeals court ruling from September means the township will have to wait at least until then before taking any action on the building.
After township attorney Joseph Gottemoller resigned in September, saying the political war was getting in the way of township business, the two sides pledged to try to work together. Instead, the dispute has intensified, culminating in the recent complaints to the state's attorney.
Even without the building issue to feed the fire, it is unclear if Moore and the trustees will resolve their dispute in the new year.
Both sides say they want to move on.
"The trustees in 2010 want to turn this around, continue on the path of adding more programs," LaPorta said.
Moore says, "If they really want to work things out, let's sit down and talk about it."
But they've said that before, and with the trustees stating they will continue to skip meetings, Grafton Township's elected officials may have to pursue their 2010 goals separately.