Judge tries to get Elk Grove, developer to negotiate on Higgins Road annexation effort

A Cook County judge on Tuesday encouraged Elk Grove Village officials and a local developer to go back to the negotiating table to resolve differences over the village's attempt to annex unincorporated properties the company owns along Higgins Road.

But the two sides seem even further apart than they were before.

Mario Gullo, owner of George Gullo Development Corp., and Village Attorney George Knickerbocker haven't talked since a testy face-to-face meeting in September to discuss a possible settlement of Gullo's lawsuit against the village.

Both sides said Tuesday no discussions have been scheduled, despite Judge Celia Gamrath's suggestion they do so.

"This would be a great time to get your parties back to the table," Gamrath told attorneys during a court status hearing Tuesday morning. "Go to that table and see what you can make happen."

Later Tuesday, Knickerbocker reiterated accusations that Gullo is one of those behind a series of mysterious robocalls and campaign-style mailers criticizing village leaders. About 10 calls and 10 printed ads have flooded mailboxes and phone lines since August.

Knickerbocker first publicly leveled the accusations during an earlier court hearing in October.

During an interview Tuesday, the village attorney also tried to tie Gullo to an electronic billboard truck touting advertisements in support of an upcoming term limits referendum that effectively would oust Craig Johnson, the 22-year incumbent mayor, and his long-tenured board. The truck has been spotted around town in recent weeks, including outside a Johnson political fundraiser in October and the village tree-lighting ceremony last Friday.

"If anything, they have decided to intensify what they're doing with robocalls, and now a rented huge truck," Knickerbocker said. "If anything, they've amplified their attack instead of reaching out to settle."

Outside court Tuesday, Gullo attorney Kim Walberg again denied her client is involved in the anti-Johnson efforts or term limits advocacy.

Walberg said the village hasn't produced evidence showing as much, but Knickerbocker said there's enough circumstantial evidence to indicate that's the case.

As part of settlement discussions, Knickerbocker had asked Gullo to help stop the robocalls, but Walberg said that's outside Gullo's control.

Walberg also said anything related to the term limits referendum is outside the scope of settlement discussions.

"If they continue to take the same position, we can't negotiate on those terms," she said.

As part of the ongoing litigation, Gullo's attorneys have filed an amended complaint, which the village has sought to dismiss. Both parties are due back in court in February, after which the judge could make a ruling.

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