Madison - St. Clair Record

Friday, November 15, 2019

Plaintiffs alleging property tax bid rigging conspiracy in St. Clair County seek treasurer's surety bonds

By The Madison County Record | Aug 25, 2015


St. Clair County officials refuse to show surety bonds of treasurer Charles Suarez to a lawyer investigating his auctions of delinquent property taxes, according to a suit in circuit court.

Aaron Weishaar of St. Louis seeks an order requiring the county to honor a request he filed under the Freedom of Information Act last fall.

The suit languished in arbitration until this July 29, when associate judge Heinz Rudolf transferred it to the civil law docket.

Weishaar represents property owners who claim Suarez led a bid rigging conspiracy that inflated interest rates on delinquent taxes.

His clients sued the county, Suarez, tax buyers, and their businesses in federal court last Oct. 17, seeking restitution through a class action.

Weishaar sued the county in its own court on Oct. 21, for copies of Suarez’s surety bonds that were requested on Sept. 29.

He wrote that he appeared at the county clerk’s office on Oct. 8, and was directed to Sean Murley in the state’s attorney’s office.

He wrote that he left contact information for Murley, who sent email advising that the request was granted.

“However, the documents produced by St. Clair County were not the documents requested,” he wrote.

Weishaar wrote that Murley sent supplemental documents on Oct. 15, but still not the ones he requested.

He wrote that a court may impose a penalty from $2,500 to $5,000 on a public body that willfully fails to comply with the Act or otherwise acts in bad faith.

In November, county voters reelected Suarez.

Since then, neither the federal suit for restitution nor the circuit court action over the surety bonds has picked up any speed.

Motions that the county, Suarez and the tax buyers filed to dismiss the federal suit remain pending before District Judge Staci Yandle.

Depositions ran past an Aug. 3 deadline, Weishaar associate Paul Grote of Clayton wrote to U.S. Magistrate Judge Phil Frazier on Aug. 17.

Grote wrote that due to the delay, plaintiffs could not meet a deadline to name an expert on class certification.

He moved for 60 more days, and Frazier granted the motion on Aug. 19.

In the circuit court case over the surety bonds, transfer from arbitration to civil law will require assignment of a circuit judge.

As of Aug. 20, Chief Judge John Baricevic had not assigned a judge.

Weishaar, Grote and others pursue a similar claim in Madison County against the county, former treasurer Fred Bathon, and tax buyers.

Clinton County Circuit Judge William Becker certified the suit as a class action in June, and Fifth District appellate judges denied review on Aug. 21.

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Organizations in this Story

St. Clair County Circuit CourtU.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois East St. LouisReinert WeishaarSt. Clair County Treasurer's Office