Township board suing county clerk over ballot dispute

Updated 8/19/2020 8:53 AM

The McHenry Township Board is asking a judge to overrule a McHenry County clerk decision and put a referendum question on November's ballot.

The lawsuit, which names the McHenry County clerk's office as a defendant, stems from the county clerk's office declining to certify a question the township's elected officials wanted on the fall ballot.


A majority of township trustees this summer decided to ask voters to dissolve the township government, a question the county clerk feels would too closely mirror an election this spring that resulted in a landslide against the idea of getting rid of the township.

The clerk's office declined to put such a question on the November ballot, citing a state law that prohibits elections from occurring "more than once in any 23-month period on the same proposition," according to a July letter from County Clerk Joseph J. Tirio to the township.

Township trustees disagree that it is the same question voters rejected this year. In the most recent ballot question, trustees changed the date the dissolution would become effective.

The township opted to sue the clerk's office, in hopes a judge rules the ballot measure should be certified and sent to voters in spite of the clerk's concerns.

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The township has hired Robert Hanlon to represent the local government in the matter, after a township attorney, James Militello, advised trustees it would be illegal to certify another ballot question to dissolve the local government so soon after the last.

The lawsuit "fails to cite any valid legal authority which would impose a duty on (the county clerk) to provide the relief sought," lawyers for the clerk's office said in a motion asking the judge to dismiss the case.

Township Trustee Steve Verr said he and his colleagues in favor of putting the dissolution question to voters have consistently presented a platform to cut costs, exemplified by the recent decision to substantially decrease the pay of elected township officials, including trustees, and to strip their health insurance coverage starting next year.

"Townships don't make any sense at all for the collar counties or any heavily urbanized county," Verr said.

A hearing on the matter is set for Friday in McHenry County Court.

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