Last October, Shelbyville Township Highway Commissioner Robin Robertson filed suit against his own township for reducing his proposed budget. Early last week, the court decision was handed down in favor of the township.
The defendants were Shelbyville Township, Township Supervisor Michael Holland, Trustee Thomas Fleshner, Trustee Julie Ambrose, Trustee Mitchell Shuff, and Trustee Ronald Zidek.
According to the Township Attorney Dennis Atteberry, Robertson was requesting a budget of $669,658.68 and the Board reduced the budget to $459,308.68. Atteberry said 2015 expenditures by the Highway department was $400,715.58. In 2017, the total expenditures were $311,692.98. He also said that the road commissioner only spent $394,520.00 of the $459,308.68 budget, as of March 15, 2019.
Robertson contended that the township was wrong in the way in which they limited his budget.
The lawsuit concerned an interpretation of Section 605 ILCS 5/6-501. The code says, "The township board of trustees or highway board of trustees, as the case may be, at the public hearing shall adopt the tentative budget and appropriation ordinance, or any part as the board of trustees deem necessary."
Robertson believed that this means the Board can only cut expenditure lines. The Board believes it can reduce line items.
The decision from Judge Douglas Jarman says that the court has jurisdiction in the case. He also said that the Township's action complies with 605 ILCS 5/6-501 (c) of the Illinois Highway Code.
Judge Jarman cited part of that code, "any part as the board of trustees deem necessary" in his decision. He found that the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to Count 1 is granted. He found that the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment as to Count 1 is denied.
Judge Jarman also found that the procedure for preparation, review and adoption of the budget is governed by Section 6-501 (c) of the Illinois Highway Code.
Judge Jarman noted that the parties in the case cited two circuit court cases which reached different results. He noted that there are no reported Appellate Court case to consider.
The judge cited that the Plaintiff submitted a proposed budget and appropriations ordinance in June of 2018. The Township adopted the budget, after it made significant modification to the amounts in the budget.
Judge Jarman found that the board's modification constitutes adopting a part of the proposed budget "as the board deems necessary," and was within its authority under 605 ILCS 5/6-501(c). Jarman said there is no just reason for delaying either enforcement or appeal of both.
Shelbyville Township normally pays any legal fees for the highway commissioner and for the township. So, the estimated cost to Shelbyville Township for the lawsuit brought against them by Robertson is about $35,000 total.