Lincolnshire resident sues village over membership in lobbying group

A Lincolnshire resident who disapproves of his hometown's membership in a statewide lobbying group has sued the village in federal court.

Dixon O'Brien objects to the village's support of the Illinois Municipal League, a nonprofit organization based in Springfield that primarily lobbies legislators on municipal tax issues.

O'Brien is a professional engineer and a member of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150. The union also is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

In the complaint, filed Wednesday, O'Brien and the union claim the municipal league lobbies "directly against his economic interests and his political beliefs," and that Lincolnshire's membership violates his First Amendment rights to free speech.

In a news release, James M. Sweeney, Local 150's president and business manager, accused Lincolnshire of using tax dollars "to lobby for wage and benefit cuts" that would hurt residents.

The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction to prevent Lincolnshire from using tax revenue on political or lobbying activities, and a judgment that Lincolnshire's support of the municipal league is unconstitutional.

Additionally, O'Brien is requesting a refund of any portion of his tax dollars that have been spent on political or lobbying activities through the league or any other organization.

Illinois laws specifically allows for municipalities to join the Illinois Municipal League, which is financed by a combination of taxpayer-funded dues, service fees and a portion of an insurance fund it manages for fire departments across the state. As of 2017, it had more than 1,200 member communities.

Lincolnshire's league dues for 2018 were $825, Village Manager Brad Burke said. Dues vary based on a town's population.

Burke also said the village's property tax revenue specifically funds pension contributions and public safety efforts.

Burke declined to comment on the allegations in the lawsuit. The complaint has been forwarded to a village attorney, he said.

O'Brien's complaint comes more than a year after a federal judge in January 2017 struck down Lincolnshire's controversial right-to-work ordinance, aimed at organized labor.

The ordinance, adopted in 2015, allowed workers at private-sector companies in town to refuse to have union dues or fees automatically deducted from their paychecks.

The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 was among the unions that successfully sued Lincolnshire to stop the ordinance from being enforced.

Right-to-work ordinances were promoted by Gov. Bruce Rauner after his election in 2014, but Lincolnshire was the only Illinois town to adopt such an ordinances.

Lincolnshire is appealing the judge's decision in the right-to-work case.

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