Published March 23, 2017
Clarendon Hills residents working to free HMS
By Ken Knutson
A group of Clarendon Hills residents is hoping to get their neighbors to cease and desist their lawsuit blocking construction of a new Hinsdale Middle School.
Polly Ascher has been leading the “Drop the HMS Lawsuit” petition drive to persuade fellow Clarendon Hills residents Andrew and Karen Schmidt, Karen Weber, Bradford Tocher and Ed Corcoran to drop litigation challenging last November’s successful referendum approving building of a new school. The plaintiffs point to a public notice error by the DuPage County Election Commission.
Ascher said she felt like Clarendon Hills citizens were being viewed as obstructionists by their neighbors to the east, particularly since Clarendon Hills students will not attend HMS.
“We just felt like we were being blamed for the referendum not passing (last March) and then for this lawsuit,” she said. “We wanted people in Hinsdale to know that this was a small group of people that was behind this (lawsuit).”
Ascher said the petition effort has garnered 750 signatures over the last two weeks, and that a related Facebook page has nearly 300 followers.
Last month, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation validating the results of the November election. But that action did not end the lawsuit, meaning the district cannot sell the $53.3 million in bonds needed to pay for the project. The parties are scheduled to go before DuPage County Circuit Court Judge Bonnie Wheaton Monday for a hearing.
Ascher said a number of supporters of the Drop the HMS Lawsuit movement have asked for a meeting with the plaintiffs.
“They’ve been either ignored or put off, or been told ‘I’ll get back to you,’ ” she related.
Ascher added that it was “pretty frightening” that a clerical error made by the election commission, and not the school board, can hold up the outcome of an election.
She did not express optimism about the plaintiffs voluntarily ending their litigation but was encouraged that the district’s board retained new counsel at its March 20 to represent the district in the matter.
“Judging from their past behavior on that, we know that their endgame is delay this project as long as possible. We’re trying to put pressure on them. A lot of us are pretty passionate.”
An attempt to get a response from the plaintiffs was unsuccessful. But the plaintiffs’ March 15 filing in response to the district’s motion to dismiss argues that if the plaintiffs had missed the deadline to file suit against the referendum, “it is sure (the district) would have been on it like a mouse on cheese — and properly so,” it reads. “Any attorney knows the necessity of meeting filing dates, and observing statutory limitations, at considerable peril for failure to do so.”
Responding to that filing March 21, the district argues that the legislation signed enacted last month makes the lawsuit moot.
“Plaintiffs’ entire theory of liability in this lawsuit is that the referendum was procedurally improper and thus the results were ‘invalid.’ Even assuming arguendo that this were true — as the district has shown in its briefing, it is not — the enactment of Public Act 99-935 has now cured any procedural irregularity such that there is no effective relief for the court to grant to plaintiffs.”