Freeport Township Board Exploring Legality of Property Purchase Made by Its Old Board

They are doing it by filing a lawsuit to let a judge decide. From the Journal-Standard:

Freeport Township now looks to the court system to see if last year’s joint purchase of the property at 206 E. Stephenson St. with the Veterans Assistance Commission [of Stephenson County] was legal.

“An opinion by attorney Greg Pelini says that a township can co-own a building with a municipality,” said Mike Phillips, attorney for the Freeport Township. “The VAC[SC] is not a municipality and according to the opinion we are not authorized to co-own a building with them. We have no authority to do it.”

The pending lawsuit includes the VAC[SC], Security First Title Company and local businessman Dave Fonda as defendants. The township and VAC[SC] jointly bought the property that they currently share from Fonda for $366,971 and moved there in January.

The basis for the lawsuit is three counts, according to the article. The court is being asked to determine whether the VAC[SC] is prohibited from entering into contracts to buy property unless it’s partnering with a municipality, whether the electors of the township should have voted on the purchase, and whether the township failed to appropriate funding to cover operational expenses in the new building.

I guess theoretically a positive finding on any of these counts could result in vacating the purchase, though the township seems to prefer just to find a way to make it legal if it currently isn’t. The township is not asking for money damages.

However, back when the deal was made, a Stephenson County blogger found even more to trouble residents about the joint purchase than what is found in the suit.

“Tutty Baker” of The Stephenson Blumdoggle followed the money:

When writing a followup news story [Journal-Standard reporter] Travis Morse would better serve the public if he would read official documents instead of just talking to those that have irons in the fire. For instance, if Travis Morse would get a copy of Township Resolution 2012-12 and its attachments he could have told the public that in order to spur this purchase along the seller, Dave Fonda, who Travis Morse did talk to, gave the VACSC a $5,000 kick-back after the sale closed. Look it up, it’s a matter of record.

Fonda was quoted as saying that he was “happy” that veterans were going to be in that building. Tutty would be overjoyed too if he could sell a building for at least $100,000 more than anyone but taxpayers would pay him for it–and then get a $5000 write down on his taxes to boot–all in one transaction. That’s a sweet deal folks, Dave Fonda has got more to be smiling about then all the “help” he’s given local veterans.

Anyone in Freeport, please look Tutty in the eye and with a straight face tell Tutty that Dave Fonda had any hope of getting a quarter-million-dollars out that building from anyone else other than taxpayers. What is down there to make that property worth it’s assessed fair cash value of just less than $300,000 Tutty does not know. But along comes Freeport Township…

One of the saddest parts of the transaction is that the VACSC belongs to Stephenson County, which is responsible for providing the commission with an office. VACSC’s participation in this deal means it needlessly spent money that could have gone to veterans’ services instead.

The good news is that the voters last spring threw out incumbent township supervisor Sheila Hooper in favor of Patrick Sellers, otherwise I’d bet the matter would never have gotten a second look. Hooper still serves on the Stephenson County Board, though.

Bonus mystery post: Removing a Filing Cabinet on Sunday morning?