GENEVA – A letter from Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen suggests that the the Maxxam Partners/Glenwood School for Boys' $68 million federal lawsuit is on track to be settled.
The suit brought by Maxxam Partners and the Glenwood School is over the county’s denial of a special use zoning permit for a $1,000-a-day alcohol and drug treatment center in the former boys school, 41W400 Silver Glen Road, near Campton Hills.
The lawsuit, filed as a violation of the Fair Housing Act, asserts that opposition to the project was rooted in discrimination against “disabled” people recovering from drug and alcohol abuse.
“We are now being herded into a settlement that will cost Kane County taxpayers plenty and subverts the authority of local control,” Lauzen’s letter stated.
The letter, dated June 27, obtained by the Kane County Chronicle, was sent to board members and Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon.
“Our goal throughout this process has been to aggressively defend the county and minimize the financial risk to taxpayers,” McMahon stated in an email response to the Chronicle. “Over the past year, we have met extensively in closed session with the county board. Our strategy has been consistent with the direction we have received from a consensus of the entire board.”
But according to Lauzen’s letter, the defense should mount a more appropriate legal strategy to challenge how Maxxam failed to meet legal zoning standards.
“If a zoning applicant lies to the ZBA (zoning board of appeals) and Kane County Board, even if they cooperate and demonstrate competence, they must be disqualified,” Lauzen’s letter stated.
“Not only did Maxxam lie, it failed to cooperate,” Lauzen’s letter stated.
Maxxam principal Steven Marcos “chose not to testify under oath during the entire first set of hearings,” Lauzen’s letter stated.
“It was necessary for the chairman of the ZBA to issue an order to compel Marco’s testimony during the second set of hearings. Finally, his obstructive response to this order was to stonewall by (not) answering more than 100 questions with ‘No comment,’” Lauzen’s letter stated.
The Fair Housing Act does not supplant local zoning ordinances, and the burden of proof was on Maxxam to make its case that it could meet six zoning criteria, Lauzen’s letter stated.
Instead of going after Maxxam’s “lies, lack of cooperation and incompetence on a staggering scale, the defense team has "put the county on trial instead", Lauzen’s letter asserts.
“Kane County does care about people suffering and is host and home to 30-plus addiction treatment facilities,” Lauzen’s letter stated. “But these developments have been done properly and safely. We welcome health care options, provided they are done correctly.”
Lauzen said he could not comment on what the settlement might be because it is in executive session.
“The greatest concern is – it is no secret how far down the process we are – we have not taken an oral deposition from one of the two parties suing us for $68 million, which is Glenwood,” Lauzen said. “We are far down the road of negotiating a settlement.”
Lauzen’s letter also stated that an outside law firm has been hired to help with the defense, at a cost of $393,000 so far.
According to McMahon’s email statement, the office’s legal strategy to defend the county was planned by himself, the office’s civil attorneys, the special assistant state’s attorney selected by the county board chairman and outside counsel, who was selected and retained by the county insurance carrier.
“The outside counsel has extensive experience in defending similar claims brought against county and municipal governments across the state,” according to McMahon’s statement.
Kane County Board member John Hoscheit, R-St. Charles, countered the assertions in Lauzen’s letter about the quality of the county’s legal representation in the Maxxam/Glenwood lawsuit.
“The board is confident that we have the best counsel available to represent us and our counsel has done exactly what the board has directed it to do,” Hoscheit said. “It’s our policy not to discuss pending litigation for a number of reasons, including court orders, as it can cause significant harm to the county.”