County and circuit clerk budget battle heats up

By on October 8, 2010

Board responds to Seyller’s lawsuit with counterclaim
by Martha Quetsch
Kane County—The budget dispute between Kane County Circuit Clerk Deb Seyller and the Kane County Board continues to escalate, with lawsuits now going both ways.

Seyller sued the board Sept. 15, and the county and the Kane County Board responded with a counterclaim on Sept. 28.

Seyller’s lawsuit seeks court-mandated approval of a $550,000 supplemental budget request, a request previously denied by the County Board. Seyller alleged that the County Board’s failure to approve the additional funding will prevent her office from providing mandated services including, but not limited to, the processing of court orders related to child support payments and orders identifying registered sex offenders.

In the lawsuit, Seyller said that without the amended budget approval, all Circuit Clerk services will be affected. The lawsuit also states that “if the County Board does not approve the Circuit Clerk’s budget amendment, the Circuit Clerk will not have adequate funding for proper rooms, offices, suitable furnishings and other items for which she is entitled funding, and the County Board will be violating its state mandate.”

“The lawsuit is intended to ensure that both the County and the Circuit Clerk’s office fulfill their respective duties under the law,” Seyller said in a Sept. 28 press release.

The Sept. 14 County Board resolution denying the additional funding stated that since the board approved the Circuit Clerk’s $4.5 annual budget in November 2009, she hired additional personnel whose wages, salaries and benefits were not included in that budget. It also states that Seyller did not obtain the consent of the County Board or notify any of its committees prior to hiring such additional personnel.

The county’s Sept. 28 counterclaim seeks restitution from Seyller for any budget overage experienced by the Circuit Clerk’s Office, as well as the court costs accrued from the lawsuits. The claim asserts that Seyller should have used the statutory remedy of appealing to the Kane County Court with a request for more staff rather than making the unilateral decision to hire unbudgeted employees.

According to Kane County Board attorney Ken Shepro, while Seyller’s office has not yet spent money exceeding the budgeted amount, it is on pace to exceed appropriated funding based on the County Clerk’s current level of spending.

If the county’s counterclaim succeeds, Seyller could be personally responsible for the restitution, Shepro said.

“The County Chair has now responded to my legitimate attempt to seek judicial clarification by filing a counterclaim against me personally; to attempt to take my family’s personal assets to pay for the services that the County refuses to provide,” Seyller said in her statement. “This is completely inappropriate and without legal justification.”

Seyller compared the action to a corporation attempting to silence protestors by filing lawsuits against them.

“That is called a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation) lawsuit,” Seyller said in her statement. “Such lawsuits have been declared by the state of Illinois Legislature to be illegal and yet, that is exactly what the County is now doing to me.”

Both sides are scheduled to appear in court again on Friday, Oct. 15.

Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay did not respond to phone calls as of press time.