Activist Rob Sherman and four fellow Buffalo Grove residents are suing the Indian Trails Public Library District, claiming illegal and prohibited acts by its officials led to last month's passage of a tax referendum.
The suit, filed Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court, asks a judge to void the results of the April 5 vote, bar the district from spending public money for political purposes and award the plaintiffs' their legal costs associated with the litigation.
"The library district didn't just break one (election) law," Sherman said. "They broke all the laws, and they broke all the election laws repeatedly."
At the heart of the complaint are allegations the district spent more than $5,000 of taxpayer money on activities encouraging voters to support the tax-hike measure.
Those expenditures, according to the lawsuit, included $3,200 to an Ohio consulting firm to survey district voters and provide services "designed to produce favorable referendum votes."
The suit claims the district spent another $2,055 to pay library staff for work performed on behalf of the referendum effort.
"We pay taxes for library services, not for political purposes," Sherman said.
Interim library Director Michael Madden said the library board will review the lawsuit and he expects they will choose to fully defend themselves against the allegations. Besides the district, the suit also lists individual board members, Cook County Clerk David Orr and Lake County Clerk Willard Helander as defendants.
Though he admits there's no precedent for what he's seeking, Sherman said he believes he can show that the district's actions before the April 5 election "tricked" voters into supporting the referendum.
The lawsuit mirrors a complaint Sherman filed against the district last month with the Illinois State Board of Elections last month. The board ultimately agreed that Sherman's complaint was justified, but chose not to punish the district or declare the election results null and void.
Sherman said he will not seek to expedite the litigation since district taxpayers will not begin paying the taxes approved through the referendum until next year.
By just 144 votes, voters passed the ballot measure allowing the library district extend a 1995 tax rate increase that had been set to expire. The extension means the owner of a $200,000 home will pay an additional $18.50 a year in library taxes.
The funds will be used to reconfigure some library rooms for quiet study areas and space for teens, officials said. The library also plans to build a small addition for meeting rooms.
Indian Trails serves residents in much of Buffalo Grove and Wheeling and small parts of Prospect Heights and Arlington Heights.
The case is scheduled to make its first court appearance June 2.