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Lawsuit with Former Mayor Settled

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By Zach Osowski

 

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The City of La Grange settled its lawsuit against former mayor Elsie Carter almost three years after she left office.

In the lawsuit Carter was accused of taking city property, such as a laptop, cameras and several other items totaling more than $4,500 after she left office in 2010. Current mayor Bill Lammlein and the city council decided civil recourse was the best way to recover the lost items.

Carter said she never took any of the items the city claimed she did and said the city never found anything she was accused of taking in her possession. She said she was upset those facts were not included in the final settlement documents. She said the city even accused her of taking some strange items such as a telephone she purchased at an auction or a set of pins from 2007.

“It was ridiculous,” she said. “It seemed like a witch hunt.”

Instead of pursuing the case further, Lammlein said the city council advised him and city attorney Steve Emery to negotiate a settlement. The council was worried a lengthy court case would cost the city and taxpayers too much money. Emery is paid an hourly wage per his contract with the city.

The settlement both parties agreed upon is essentially two apologies from Lammlein and Carter, both expressing regret over not arranging a meeting prior to Carter leaving office.

“The document says we both had made errors ... before I took office,” Lammlein said. “And that was basically how it ended up.”

Because the two never met, a lot of information was lost about ongoing projects.

“This (lawsuit) resulted from a poor transition,” Emery said. “If there had been a transitional meeting I think a lot of this could have been avoided.”

Part three of the settlement states: “The parties believe that it is a best practice that City officials should engage in effective transitions between administrations, including exchange of information and documents concerning any then pending projects.”

Carter said by law the new and old mayor were supposed to meet and that Lammlein refused to meet with her. She said at the court mediation, the mayor apologized for not having the meeting, but wanted her to apologize for the shape she left the city in.

“I left the city in great shape,” Carter said. “We had three new parks, all the roads that needed paving were paved and we had a AAA credit rating. All I apologized for was not insisting on having the meeting.”

The court documents also listed paperwork pertaining to a Historic Preservation and Streetscape Project worth $354,000 as having been taken by Carter and her staff. Emery said the city was hampered in moving forward by not having those documents. Upon taking office, Lammlein also discovered other documents missing including city blueprints.

Because the case ended with a settlement, Emery said there was no admission of liability on Carter’s or the city’s part, just acknowledgement that a meeting would have been helpful before Lammlein took office. Even though the items were returned or found there was no determination of whether Carter and her staff took them because the suit didn’t get to that point in the judicial process.

“To that extent (the missing items) things were unresolved but resolved,” Emery said.

 

Email us about this story at zach@oldhamera.com