Kane County agrees to $410,000 payment in lawsuit with Comcast, Campton Hills
Despite accusations of untoward payments and incompetent legal representation, Kane County officials will fork over more than $410,000 to Comcast.
The settlement ends a fight among the county, the cable company and Campton Hills that began with the founding of the village in 2007.
The county charges cable companies a franchise fee to do business in the unincorporated areas. For many years, that included the area that is now Campton Hills.
Once the village incorporated, officials there believed the village was entitled to those franchise fees. But county officials continued to collect the money in the belief that the county's agreement with Comcast allowed for the collection of the fee for a period even after the village's "annexation."
The village fought back, saying an annexation and incorporation are not the same. Comcast asked the courts to decide who was right. Multiple courts agreed incorporation and annexation are not the same and ruled the county should refund the fees to Comcast.
Comcast, in turn, should pay Campton Hills what it owed the village, about $284,000, the courts ruled.
Not everyone on the Kane County Board was happy with the decision. County board member Mo Iqbal cited three $1,000 campaign contributions by Comcast to county officials as a reason for concern about the outcome of the case.
One donation went to former county board member Kurt Kojzarek, who preceded Iqbal on the board. One donation went to board member Barbara Hernandez. And one donation went to board Chairman Chris Lauzen.
"I suggest the state's attorney's office investigate the nature of those payments and how it impacted the outcome of this case," Iqbal said.
Board members voted against that idea.
"If you want to open an investigation into someone who receives a legal campaign contribution, I think it's a wasted effort," said board member Drew Frasz.
Kojzarek and Hernandez did not immediately respond to requests for comments. Lauzen said he returned the donation that came to him when he learned the county had pending litigation with Comcast.
Lauzen said donations didn't influence the outcome of the case and called it bad legal work by the state's attorney's office.
"When was the last time the state's attorney's office has fought an issue and won?" Lauzen asked. "I've been thinking about that issue for a month. I haven't thought of any."
He urged the board to reject the settlement but did not vote because the chairman does so only as a tiebreaker.
Hernandez had left the meeting before the vote.
Outside counsel Pat Kinnally did the initial legal work on the case, per Lauzen's request, said State's Attorney Joe McMahon. But Kinnally resigned from all county work, putting it in the lap of the state's attorney's office in the middle of the case.
Barb Wojnicki is the county board member who represents Campton Hills. She said the village went after the money it believed it was entitled to.
"I'm not happy that we have to pay Comcast," Wojnicki said. "However, you can't put the entire blame on the village."