Madison - St. Clair Record

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Madison County seeks to quash deposition intended for ‘annoyance and expense’

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Nov 28, 2017

Madison County seeks to quash a subpoena requesting a deposition by a "corporate representative" in a bid rigging suit, arguing that the subpoena is intended for “annoyance and expense” in a suit that the county is still unsure whether it will be formally added as a defendant.

On Nov. 17, Madison County filed a motion to quash a subpoena served by defendants Joe Vassen and V.I. Inc. through attorney Ann Barron of Heyl Royster Voelker & Allen PC in Edwardsville. The subpoena seeks to have a corporate representative of the county to testify regarding various topics.

Madison County argues that the deposition notice is improper at this stage of litigation and that the topics are designed for “unreasonable annoyance, expense disadvantage and oppression in contravention to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 201(c).”

Counsel for the Vassen defendants filed a deposition notice on Oct. 20, setting the deposition for Nov. 10, a recognized county holiday for Veteran’s Day.

Counsel for Madison County contacted the defendants’ counsel informing him that no subpoena had been issued for the deposition and that the day selected was a holiday.

Then on Nov. 5, a presumed representative of the Vassen defendants served County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler with a subpoena and deposition notice. The new subpoena again sought the deposition of a corporate representative and set the deposition for Nov. 20, the week of Thanksgiving.

Madison County now moves to quash the subpoena and deposition “for the Vassen Defendants failure to comply with applicable law and rules.”

Madison County claims the subpoena and deposition “seek to take a substantive deposition at a time when it is not known whether the County will be served with a copy of the Third Amended Complaint, and be formally added as a defendant.”

“This places the County in a precarious position of allowing parties to this litigation to proceed with discovery against it, while not knowing whether the County will be named.

“This is especially disadvantageous when the County believes it has various defenses to the Third Amended Complaint which will preclude Plaintiffs from moving forward against the County individually, let alone on a class basis,” the motion states.

Madison County also argues that pursuing discovery before it formally makes an appearance is improper.

The motion states that some of the topics mentioned in the subpoena and deposition are not within the knowledge of the County.

“The Vassen Defendants seek testimony regarding matters which have previously been testified to by other deponents in this action where those dependents are knowledgeable of the matters at hand,” the motion states.

For example, Madison County argues that the Vassen defendants ask it to testify about information within the constitutional and statutory dominion, control and knowledge of the treasurer but they’ve already had an opportunity to depose the treasurer.

Therefore, Madison County says the deposition is designed “only for the purposes of annoyance and expense.”

The Vassen defendants also want Madison County to testify about the whereabouts of alleged videotapes of the tax sales at issue. However, Madison County claims the Vassen defendants know the videotapes don’t exist, and having a corporate representative of the county repeat what has been previously said about something that doesn’t exist “would be a waste of government resources.”

Plaintiff attorney Nelson Mitten of St. Louis filed the amended complaint on Sept. 25 on behalf of the class after visiting Associate Judge J. Marc Kelly of Fayette County granted the plaintiffs leave to rejoin Madison County and Prenzler.

The plaintiffs sought to rejoin Madison County to the action following former Madison County Treasurer Fred Bathon’s May 11 deposition.

Mitten wrote that during Bathon’s deposition, he testified that numerous Madison County officials knew of, and participated in, the alleged conspiracy.

In their amended complaint, the plaintiffs allege Bathon conspired with each tax purchaser defendant to establish a “no trailing bid” policy, meaning the process required one-time, simultaneous bidding. Rather than allowing a series of bids, all bidders had to bid at once, with the auctioneer accepting the lowest bid that was heard.

The defendants allegedly then made an agreement with Bathon to bid the maximum of 18 percent in the simultaneous bidding.

Bathon was charged in February 2013 for violating the Sherman Antitrust Act. He pleaded guilty the same day. Defendants Scott McLean, Barrett Rochman and Vassen also entered guilty pleas to federal antitrust charges in October 2013.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 13-L-276

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Organizations in this Story

Heyl Royster Illinois Supreme Court Madison County