A three-way legal feud between two factions of the Village of Broadview board and the Broadview Public Library continued to drag on, even as the parties tried to reach a settlement over delays on a proposed addition for the building.
The three parties met in the courtroom of Cook County Chancery Judge Diane Larsen March 3, but the hearing got off on the wrong foot when village attorney Phil Fornaro showed up late, said board-faction attorney Adam Lasker.
“[Fornaro] arrived at the hearing 32 minutes late and the judge admonished him rather strictly,” Lasker said.
At issue is a planned $4.1 million library addition, approved by more than 80 percent of voters in a 2012 referendum. The library board has been unable to break ground on the new building, they say, because outgoing Mayor Sherman Jones has conspired to delay and sabotage the project. Jones was term-limited out by voters in the Nov. 8 election, but is running April 4 for village trustee.
“On top of that, we’re in election mode,” said Library Board President Katrina Arnold. Up for grabs are Arnold’s seat on the board, as well as those of two allies, Robert Jones and Eric Cummings. Village Trustee Gwenevere Turner, a Jones ally, is running for the library board along with Lillie Yancey.
“The Mayor is trying to infiltrate our board,” Arnold alleged. “With one new person on that board [to create a majority], they can mess with this whole lawsuit, they could mess with the whole project — everything.” Jones declined to respond to a request for comment by press time.
The library’s lawyers are asking the village for a $1.2 million settlement for the delays, as well as legal costs. Meanwhile, a majority block of four village trustees jumped into the suit, hiring Lasker’s firm, Ancel Glink, to file a “motion to intervene” so they are at the table when a settlement is hammered out.
“The village doesn’t have $1.2 million lying around for this kind of settlement,” said Trustee Judy Brown-Marino, who is one of five candidates running for village president. Brown-Marino said the financial director post in the village is currently empty. “We want to make the right decision financially, and it’s even more important since we don’t have a budget yet and we don’t know the numbers.”
Jones’ feud with the library board began when the board declined to partner with his hand-picked developers to construct a strip mall with the library on the second floor, according to Arnold and court documents. The library district is a separate taxing entity from the village.
Instead, the library moved ahead with its plan to build a 5,000-square-foot addition on adjacent land purchased from the village in 2000. According to the library’s suit, the village changed the rules after the library received variances for parking spaces in 2013 from the Zoning Board of Appeals, chaired by Arnold’s husband Wayne Arnold. Building Director David Upshaw was involved in shenanigans when submitted architectural plans temporarily disappeared, the suit alleged. Then Upshaw ran for the library board and became board president.
In 2016, Judge Larsen ruled the library’s variances were still valid and that the library could proceed with submitting permits. Library lawyers asked the judge to appoint someone other than Upshaw to oversee the permit and inspection process. However, the library has not submitted any building permits yet, said Village Attorney Phil Fornaro.
Arnold said in February that debt-service payments and delays have eaten away at the library’s construction nest egg. The plans are scaled back now, she said. Architects cut 2,000 square feet from the lower level and reduced the finishes on the building’s facade. The library has given up on purchasing new computers, but will build in wiring infrastructure for new devices in the future, Arnold said.
The library’s lawyers filed a motion in early spring, asking for sanctions against Fornaro Law. The motion accuses the village lawyers of not acting in good faith, harassing the library board, causing delay and spiking litigation costs.
“I think this is a little overblown,” Phil Fornaro said. “We’re actively trying to settle the case. The most important thing has been settlement discussions back and forth,” he said. “Politics aside, everybody it seems like from the village’s perspective is trying to settle the case.”
The next hearing takes place May 4, according to court documents.
— Broadview Library feud goes on as expansion plans scaled back —