A civic activist’s lawsuit against East St. Louis city officials h
as been reset for arguments Feb. 7 before St. Clair County Associate Judge Christopher Kolker.
Matt Hawkins sued last year claiming East St. Louis City Clerk Dorene Hoosman, Mayor Alvin Parks, City Council members Roy Mosley, Emeka Jackson, Latoya Greenwood, Robert Eastern III and City Manager Deletra Hudson have violated the Tax Increment Allocation Redevelopment Act (TIARA), Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), their oaths of office and a misconduct statute.
He wants the officials removed from office, claiming the officials have refused to turn over documents concerning a Community Block Development Grant where nearly $2.5 million was spent to renovate and/or build 16 housing units involving 12 buildings. He also has sought minutes from meetings of the Tax Increment Finance Commission Joint Review Board which oversee millions in public funding.
In his amended complaint, he asks the court to consider the alleged violations as “aggravated offenses as they have occurred routinely and without concern for the law nor the economic damage visited upon taxpayers, citizens and property owners over the last four (4) years in a vulnerable population where poverty is already at record levels.”
Attorney Michael Wagner of Clayborne, Sabo and Wagner in Belleville represents the defendants in Hawkins’ pro se complaint.
“Without standing, the counts are before this Court improperly, and therefore the Court may not employ any of the relief sought by Plaintiff, including finding of any Defendants or removing them from office,” Wagner wrote in a motion to dismiss.
The parties were in court for arguments on Jan. 24, but because Hawkins was not prepared to respond to a defense motion to dismiss filed that day, Kolker reset the hearing.
Kolker remarked that the docket sheet would look odd because the motion to dismiss Hawkins’ amended complaint will appear before the filing of the amended complaint. Hawkins told the Court that he had sent a copy of the amended complaint to Wagner in early January but had not yet filed it with the court when the Jan. 24 hearing began.
Wagner claims Hawkins does not have standing to file action against the East St. Louis city officials seeking their removal for alleged violations of their oaths of office. He says that power lies with law enforcement.
“The statute cited by Plaintiff is a criminal statute,” Wagner wrote. “As such, Plaintiff does not have standing by which to bring the suit.”
Wagner also says Hawkins’ complaint has failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because he improperly named individuals as defendants.
“Plaintiff has failed to name the actual public body, the City of East St. Louis,” Wagner wrote.
Among other things, Hawkins seeks $20,000 in fines for alleged violations of TIARA and $200,000 in fines for the alleged failure to conduct an audit.
“A review of the statute cited by Plaintiff reveals no such penalties clauses,” Wagner wrote.