143rd Street Veto — Override Fails Amid Claims of Conflict

143rd

By Nick Reiher

The Will County Board needed 14 votes to override a controversial veto of a resolution to reduce the scope of 143rd Street widening in Homer Township. But opponents could garner only 10.

That left only anger and frustration for those opponents, many of whom believe the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office was biased toward the Will County Executive’s Office in an opinion allowing the veto to stand.

The issue began when County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant vetoed a resolution reducing the widening of 143rd Street in Homer Township from five lanes to three with a median and turn lanes. That would be the only portion of the 143rd Street route not to be five lanes, an issue the County Board supported in nine votes over 30 years.

The County Board had passed the resolution with a bi-partisan vote at its February meeting. But two days later, Bertino-Tarrant let board leadership and the State’s Attorney’s Office know she had signed the resolution in error, and was now vetoing it due to safety and other concerns.

The confusion began when the unsigned resolution already had been attested to by Will County Clerk Lauren Staley-Ferry. Opponents believed the resolution then was valid as soon as Bertino-Tarrant signed it, in error or not.

But Assistant State’s Attorney Scott Pyles said the resolution would not be valid until the clerk had attested, signed and sealed after Bertino-Tarrant had signed it.

When Staley-Ferry later said in a memo to the county executive, County Board leadership and the State’s Attorney’s office she would not sign it, Pyles said, the resolution still could be vetoed.

Opponents, backed at times by a large, vocal group of Homer Township residents against the five-lane widening, wondered if Staley-Ferry had handled other ordinances and resolutions the same way, or just let Bertino-Tarrant sign over the previous seal.

Board Members Steve Balich, R-Homer Township, and Dan Butler, R-Frankfort, said the board had no recourse to challenge the state’s attorney’s opinion, because Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Tatroe had said Illinois law does not allow them to hire their own attorney, as the statute does for the County Executive’s Office.

Balich said he doesn’t believe there is any wrongdoing by the State’s Attorney’s Office, but added he thinks there is a perception of bias toward the County Executive’s Office that leads him and some others not to trust their opinions.

They and Ogalla said the issue is no longer about 143rd Street widening, but what rights the County Board has to do its business and challenge what they feel is wrong.

Pyles explained the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office represents all county government offices and does not favor one over the other.

As an example, he said Bertino-Tarrant’s office believed the County Board should not have been allowed to vote on the override at its March 21 meeting because it already had exhausted its one opportunity by calling a special meeting on March 5.

But Pyles said they disagreed with her and her staff, because there was no quorum on March 5; therefore, no official meeting was held.

Tatroe added the term conflict is a legal term, and a disagreement between the County Board and County Executive’s Office does not constitute a legal conflict.

Despite the vote, Ogalla said the issue of the veto is not dead, and the County Board will continue to fight for representation.

In addition to the action item regarding its own legal counsel, the Executive Committee also voted to direct the Will County State’s Attorney to file litigation to challenge the County Executive’s ability to veto a resolution, and directing the Will County State’s Attorney to file litigation to enforce the original resolution for three lanes with a median and turn lanes.

Board Member Jackie Trayner, D-Bolingbrook, said the board is not legal to direct the State’s Attorney’s Office. Tatroe said the board can request, and then it is up to their office to take it up or not. The motion passed.

The motion to direct the State’s Attorney’s Office to file litigation to enforce the original 143rd Street resolution also passed. There was no comment from the State’s Attorney representatives as to whether they would follow the motions.

 

Nick Reiher is editor of Farmers Weekly Review.

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