Kane County raises lawsuit dismissed for lack of evidence

Updated 11/13/2012 4:58 PM
  • Karen McConnaughay

    Karen McConnaughay

  • James MacRunnels

    James MacRunnels

Citing a lack of evidence, a Kane County judge Tuesday issued a judgment dismissing a lawsuit that accused Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay of improperly giving raises to 14 employees.

The suit, brought by Elburn resident James MacRunnels, was filed in 2010, dismissed in spring 2011 and then reinstated by an appellate court panel earlier this year.

Judge Thomas Mueller said MacRunnels' attorney, Joseph King, had insufficient evidence that raises were issued at all.

"(McConnaughay) did nothing violative of the county's own ordinances," Mueller said. "You don't file a complaint saying maybe you'll find evidence down the road. You have to have something to start with."

Mueller also noted that McConnaughay's attorney, Claudette Miller, had provided sworn statements from two previous county board chairmen that salaries and raises were part of the annual budget process and part of the county board's custom and practice.

McConnaughay issued a statement, saying the dismissal was vindication for her and the county board. She decried the suit was a case of "sour grapes" and said taxpayers had to pay the bill for a "meritless" lawsuit.

"But validating what we were already doing is scarcely worth clogging up our legal system and the unnecessary cost to taxpayers. And when such abuses are perpetuated by self-appointed 'good-government' advocates, the hypocrisy is astounding," McConnaughay said.

In court documents in support of the motion for summary judgment, Miller argued that four employees received raises -- one because of a promotion and three non-department heads that were given small, one-time raises by their department heads, none of whom were McConnaughay.

"The process for setting salaries and raises is part of the overall budget and appropriation process governed by the State Constitution and State Counties Code," Miller wrote.

In court papers, King argued questioned that if the raises were legal, why did McConnaughay have the county board sign off on the raises twice this year. "We're alleging that the defendant gave out these raises and placed the raises into the budget process for board approval without addressing these specific raises with the executive committee as required by ordinance," King argued.

MacRunnels, who unsuccessfully ran against McConnaughay in the 2008 Republican primary, could not be reached for comment. Messages left for his attorney were not returned.

Miller could not immediately be reached for comment.

MacRunnels' lawsuit was not asking a judge to take away the raises, but wanted a promise from McConnaughay from doing the same thing again. Even if a judge found that McConnaughay acted improperly, it will be impossible for her to issue more raises.

Last week, Republican Chris Lauzen was elected county board chairman and McConnaughay was elected to a seat in the Illinois Senate.

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