DuPage Township embroiled in financial, legal battles
Residents of DuPage Township looking for more insight into a lawsuit over the firing of a township employee, financial irregularities and even a charge of sexual harassment by a trustee were left with no answers last night as three of five trustees failed to appear and the regular board meeting lacked a quorum.
The canceled meeting is the latest dust up in a battle over the township’s books – the board approved a forensic audit at its prior meeting – and charges of the lawsuit being politically motivated with Trustee Alyssia Benford as the prime target. A Republican, Benford is running in the 98th against incumbent Rep. Natalie Manley (D-Joliet). If elected, she would become the first African-American woman elected as a Republican to the Illinois General Assembly.
In mid-April, former township administrative assistant Linda Youngs sued the township, alleging that her firing at the March 27 meeting was a violation of the state’s Open Meeting Act.
“There was nothing on the meeting’s agenda about her firing,” Youngs’ attorney Joe Giamanco said. “And because the police came in and escorted her out, it means that the three who voted to fire her met ahead of time in private and planned this. That’s a violation of the act.”
But Benford said that she did not meet with the other two trustees, Maripat Oliver and Dennis Raga, who voted to fire Youngs, before the firing. (Oliver and Raga did not attend Tuesday’s meeting. Benford, the third not to attend, is on vacation.) And while she would not comment on the lawsuit itself, Benford did say that the motivation for the lawsuit is in part political and personal.
“I did not make the motion to terminate, and I am third on the roll call to agree to the firing, but I’m the first person named in the suit,” she said. “Joe (Youngs' attorney) and I used to be friendly. But about a year ago we had a falling out over a contentious mayor’s race.”
Benford, a certified public accountant, said that since Youngs' firing she has found some “significant irregularities with the budget report which contained incorrect historical information well as quite a few questionable activities with the general assistance fund” -- the major one being an $80,000 difference with the ending fund balance and beginning fund balance.
On April 21, she held a budget workshop to sort out the discrepancies, but, she said, Township Supervisor William Mayer, Youngs' former boss, “effectively filibustered” the entire meeting.
“Over two-plus hours, he told us every story he could think of regarding the township,” Benford said. “I described the meeting as listening to the song ‘The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round'.”
Benford said she is trying to schedule more budget workshops to, among other things, review all the expenses paid in fiscal year 2017-18, and ensure that the township has budgeted the correct amount in the appropriate line items.
But she isn’t holding out much hope.
“Four of the six years I have been on the board, Bill (Mayer) has purposely missed the one meeting that we hold the budget hearing and approve the budget,” she said. “I refuse to preside over that meeting this year until all of my questions are answered regarding his budget activities.”
Mayer did not respond to a request for comment.
The next township meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 22. It’s unclear what the agenda is and whether “threatened litigation regarding [a] sexual harassment charge made against a trustee” will be on it as it was on the agenda of the canceled May 8 meeting.