Clinton County Associate Judge William Becker, already presiding as visiting judge over a class action against Madison County, will preside over a dispute between Madison County and its Veterans Assistance Commission.
The dispute, which began when the county banned veteran services officer Brad Lavite from his office, has swelled into a struggle for control of the commission.
Notice of Becker’s appointment reached the circuit clerk on Sept. 19.
He replaces Madison County associate judge Stephen Stobbs, who recused himself after Fifth District appellate judges reversed his decision in favor of the county.
For Becker’s first task, he must resolve a contempt petition that Lavite filed against county leaders on Sept. 16.
Lavite claims they refused to pay the commission’s legal bills, in spite of a Fifth District declaration that the county lacks authority over the commission.
His lawyer, Tom Burkart of Hamel, recommended incarcerating county officials and giving them keys to their own cells, in the form of an agreement to pay his bill.
He attached to the motion a transcript of a Sept. 14 meeting of the county board’s finance committee with county auditor Rick Faccin.
Faccin told the committee that the veteran assistance commission would exhaust its funds by the end of this month.
“Basically this is due to litigation expense of their lawyer, who has totaled over $100,000 in legal fees,” he said.
Faccin said the attorney refused to give any detail on a current bill around $60,000.
“We can’t audit the claim because we don’t know what’s going on,” he said.
“I’m not paying it. It’s just that simple.
“People need to sit down and settle it.
“I have a great deal of admiration and respect for the service Mr. Lavite has given us and our country. This is a separate issue here.
“The money that we’re spending on litigation should be going to veterans.
“As a matter of fact maybe somebody else ought to be looking at what he’s billing for here because this is ridiculous and it’s a waste of taxpayer money.”
The committee directed Faccin to inform the veteran service commission that if he paid the claim he wouldn’t be able to meet the payroll.
Burkart responded with a contempt petition against Faccin, county board chairman Alan Dunstan, state’s attorney Tom Gibbons, assistant state’s attorney John Gilbert, county administrator Joseph Parente, and finance committee members Jack Minner, Michael Holliday, Larry Trucano, Kelly Tracy and Jamie Goggin.
He wrote that Gilbert attended the meeting and remained silent.
He wrote that ample funds remained in the treasury for payment as of July 31, when the commission had an unreserved balance of $828,332.12.
In the other Madison County-related action that Becker presides over, he certified a class of property owners who claim auctions of delinquent taxes from 2005 to 2008 were rigged by former treasurer Fred Bathon, who arranged for tax buyers to charge interest at the legal limit of 18 percent.
Becker was appointed to the case after Stobbs on Sept. 1 recused himself. After that, Chief Judge Dave Hylla asked the Illinois Supreme Court for a special assignment.
The Court on Sept. 13 picked the Fourth Judicial Circuit to decide, and its Chief Judge Brad Paisley selected Becker.