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Lawsuit costs climbing for Veterans Assistance Commission

Published: Friday, April 25, 2014 9:43 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 7:47 a.m. CDT

MORRIS – Legal expenses and insurance premiums are adding up for the Grundy County Veterans Assistance Commission, which has been named in two lawsuits in recent years by its previous administration.

For fiscal 2014, the commission budgeted $7,700 for insurance, but GCVAC Superintendent Ken Buck expects to spend closer to $11,000, because the commission’s former liability insurance policy was not renewed this year. As a result, the commission was forced to find a new, more expensive provider.

“Nobody wanted to touch us because of the lawsuits. Our general liability pretty much doubled,” Buck said Thursday during a Grundy County Community Relations Committee meeting. “We continue to be on our own for insurance, but we will continue to shop around as we go.”

The lawsuits were filed by Elton Monson, who served as superintendent of the VAC from 1999 to 2011 when the commission, later supported by the Grundy County Board, terminated Monson and two other employees at the time – Kathleen Doran and Phyllis Doran.

The most recent lawsuit, filed Dec. 12, 2013, by Monson and Kathleen Doran, was brought against the county and multiple other parties for wrongful termination. Kathleen Doran also filed on behalf of Phyllis Doran, who has since died.

The other named parties in the suit are the Morris American Legion, Grundy County Marine Corps League, Disabled American Veterans, Morris VFW, Coal City American Legion, Minooka American Legion, current VAC superintendent Ken Buck, the VAC, VAC Chairman Harion Enervold, the Kendall County VAC , the Illinois Association of VACs and Judges Robert Marsaglia, Sheldon Sobol and Lance Peterson.

Earlier this month a motion to dismiss was filed by the defense. Last week, it was answered with a motion to strike the attempt at dismissal.

The parties are scheduled to be in court Monday for a hearing before a Will County judge in the Grundy County Courthouse. The hearing will be on these motions, as well as on the appointment of a special administrator.

The veteran groups are being represented by Rathbun, Cservenyak & Kozol firm. Special representation will have to be made for the judges and the county due to conflicts of interest, Grundy County Assistant State’s Attorney Perry Rudman said.

“We’re hoping to get this dismissed, but we don’t even have the first appearance in front of a judge until this coming week,” Buck said Thursday.

Buck said the commission will most likely be over budget on professional services as well, because of the increasing legal fees.

Buck budgeted $7,500 for professional services this year, but said he is already at that amount with more than six months left in the fiscal year.

“Last year when I made this budget, I had no idea there was going to be another lawsuit,” Buck told the committee Thursday. “So we’re probably going to blow that line item as well.”

Monson filed a previous lawsuit in 2011 over the dispute of the termination of the original VAC and the creation of the VAC now run by Buck. 

Funding options

Currently, the county’s veteran’s commission is funded through the county’s general fund, but the county recently discussed a tax levy as an alternate means of funding the commission.

At its most recent meeting, the Grundy County Finance Committee decided to hold off on the levy, which could be implemented by the County Board without going to a referendum.

According to Grundy County Assessor Dave Henderson, a 0.02 percent levy would generate roughly $363,000 for the commission, much more than the VAC’s current budget of $191,000. The levy would translate to 2 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

“We’ve gotten into these lawsuits, and it’s eating up a lot of our general fund money,” Grundy County Board Chairman Ron Severson said Friday. “I think the levy might be the better way to fund [the commission].”

Buck said both the VAC and a local VFW post have passed resolutions of support for the VAC levy.

However, the finance committee decided it did not want to impose any new taxes at this time.

“I think the levy won’t solve all of the county’s financial problems, but at a low impact per taxpayer, it could make things easier,” Buck said.

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