A Wauconda towing company has sued the village of Island Lake in federal court, objecting to a politically connected rival's status as the Island Lake Police Department's top choice for auto removal.
The complaint, filed late last week by Mike's Towing, takes issue with the police department's selection of Sharp Towing as its go-to company when a vehicle needs to be removed from a local road because of an accident, a DUI arrest or other issues.
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Police Chief William McCorkle confirmed Sharp's preferred status in a Daily Herald interview in February. No contract with the village for the service exists.
The lawsuit says the village's preference for Sharp Towing violates the 14th Amendment's equal protection guarantees, which were enacted after the Civil War but have been cited in cases that didn't involve race.
Sharp Towing is owned by Louis Sharp, a former Island Lake village trustee and a supporter of Mayor Debbie Herrmann.
"We've been discriminated against," said Mike's Towing co-owner Mike Johnson, an Island Lake resident.
Herrmann said the suit has no merit. She questioned why it was filed less than two weeks before the April 9 election.
"This lawsuit is clearly politically motivated," Herrmann said in an email.
Sharp is one of the two local men who filed objections to mayoral challenger Charles Amrich's candidacy in unsuccessful efforts to remove him from the April 9 ballot.
Additionally, his Sharp Auto Body has done work for the village, public records show.
Founded in 1986, Mike's Towing last towed a car for Island Lake police in September 2011, according to court records. When a company representative inquired about the subsequent lack of business, he learned Sharp Towing is the department's preferred company.
According to the lawsuit, Herrmann told McCorkle to use Sharp Towing when needed.
The lawsuit also claims Herrmann, a Farmers Insurance agent, insures the Sharp Towing vehicles. Citing client confidentiality, she wouldn't comment on that allegation.
Lake County politics and the towing industry have been linked before in court.
In 1999 and 2004, then-Lake County Sheriff Gary Del Re was sued by separate towing companies that claimed they were getting less work from the sheriff's office because they supported Del Re's political rivals.
Both cases were dismissed by federal court judges.
Herrmann, who was elected in 2009 and is running for a second term, leads the United for Progress slate. The other members are incumbent Clerk Connie Mascillino and trustee candidates Ed McGinty, Ken Nitz and Josh Rohde.
Amrich, the town's mayor from 1985 to 2005, heads the For the People slate. The other members are clerk hopeful Teresa Ponio and trustee candidates Mark Beeson, Keith Johns and Tony Sciarrone.