In a swift decision, a Cook County judge has ruled against opponents who brought litigation against Oak Park Elementary School District 97, claiming that the successful April 5 referendum should be overturned.
In a hearing May 24 at the Daley Center in downtown Chicago, Judge Mary Mikva denied the petition for a temporary restraining order against the referendum, which was passed handily by Oak Park voters in April. A lawsuit was subsequently filed against D97 in April by Oak Park resident Noel Kuriakos and Taxpayers United for America. That suit, which is still pending, seeks to overturn the April 5 election.
They argued that the ballot wording understated the true impact of the tax increase on voters and that the school board knew this and allowed the misleading language.
The district has said when it realized the language was confusing they campaigned using more accurate numbers. Officials also point out that the district is protected by a “safety clause” in state law involving unintentional mistakes written into a ballot.
The judge noted those points in her ruling. She also questioned why the plaintiffs didn’t file their suit against the district before the election.
“We applaud Judge Mikva’s decision today, and believe it supports the fact that we have been fully transparent about the financial impact of the referendum since we adopted the resolution on Jan. 18, 2011,” said Peter Barber, president of the D97 Board of Education, in a statement released last week by the district.
Taxpayers United also filed lawsuits against other suburban school districts that ran referendums on April 5, including Riverside-Brookfield High School, but that case won’t be heard until November.
As for the suit against D97, that case is scheduled to be heard on June 30. The district has asked for the case to be dismissed.