Judge: Developer's challenge of Elk Grove annexation can proceed
A Cook County judge has allowed a developer's lawsuit against Elk Grove Village to proceed, setting up at least another five months of litigation before a decision in the long-running annexation dispute.
On technical grounds, Judge Celia Gamrath rejected a formal motion by village attorneys seeking to throw out developer Mario Gullo's complaint that challenges a village attempt to forcibly annex properties he owns on Higgins Road.
The April 29 written decision now sets up a 60-day deadline for the village to answer the allegations in Gullo's lawsuit, and another 90 days for attorneys to exchange documents and depose witnesses as part of the discovery process.
The matter could then go to trial, or the judge may issue a ruling on her own.
With the judge's recent approval, Gullo's attorneys can now formally challenge the village's attempted annexation under the "quo warranto" statute in state law, essentially questioning by what authority village officials believed they could annex the properties.
Attorneys for Gullo, president of George Gullo Development Corp., have argued the village's attempt in 2018 to forcibly annex 58 acres was improper because it was preceded by a voluntary "sham" annexation of a separate 41-acre parcel owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
They're basing their case on a 2018 appellate court ruling that overturned Bolingbrook's forcible annexation of properties after that village first voluntarily annexed ComEd properties.
Elk Grove Mayor Craig Johnson this week argued the two lawsuits are "completely different," and that the village was negotiating with the water district in 2017, before the attempted Gullo annexations in February 2019.
The mayor vowed to annex the properties eventually.
"We're not going anywhere," Johnson said. "We're patient."
Out-of-court settlement discussions between village officials and Gullo haven't taken place since last fall, with tempers still flaring after a bitter term limits referendum campaign that overshadowed the annexation feud.
Johnson publicly accused Gullo of working behind the scenes to support the campaign, which included a flurry of anonymous robocalls and mailers. Gullo denied any involvement. The state Supreme Court tossed the term limits question off the ballot in February.