Judge tosses Naperville Township road budget lawsuit
The Naperville Township Highway commissioner's attempt to have the courts reinstate his full budget after it was cut during a dispute about road services has come up short.
DuPage County Judge Bonnie Wheaton on Friday dismissed Stan Wojtasiak's lawsuit filed May 17 seeking the ability to spend the entire $2,619,330 he budgeted instead of the $2,075,005 approved May 10 by the township board.
At issue was whether the township board overstepped its ability to act as a check and balance on the road district budget when it made $544,325 in cuts and redirected some money toward a potential road services agreement with the city of Naperville.
Wojtasiak's attorney, Lisle Township Supervisor Rick Tarulis, said the township board didn't have the discretion to make the cuts. That's why the lawsuit sought to nullify the reduced version of the road district's budget and require the township board to approve the original spending plan of $2.6 million -- or enough to "properly fund the functions of the highway commissioner and road district."
But Steven Adams, attorney for the township trustees, said Wheaton's decision to dismiss the suit proves the board's actions followed the law, which requires each township board to approve the budget -- or parts of the budget as it deems necessary -- for its corresponding road district.
"The court agreed with the township board's interpretation of the law regarding its authority to approve portions rather than the entire highway commissioner's budget," Adams said. "The township board is pleased with the court's ruling. It was a fair and correct interpretation of the law."
Wojtasiak said the ruling means he will have to move some money around to try to avoid layoffs from his six-person staff. He said eight miles of paving projects planned to cost $1 million likely will take the biggest hit, as he might have to scrap half the work.
Adams said Wojtasiak and Tarulis can appeal the dismissal to the Second District Appellate Court in Elgin. Tarulis did not return a call seeking comment Friday but earlier had said it might be beneficial if an appeals court rules on the matter.
Tarulis called the state statute that governs road district budget approval "poorly worded," and leaders of the Illinois Township Attorneys Association agree it "definitely could be much more clear." An appellate ruling could give a better understanding of how much latitude a township board has to make changes to a road district budget, township legal experts say.
One thing that doesn't change with the dismissal of the lawsuit is Wojtasiak's opposition to a road services deal with the city of Naperville under which the city would take over maintenance, winter operations and landscaping for 49.3 lane miles of township roads.
While the city says the deal could save $800,000 a year, Wojtasiak said that's never been proven.