Monday, June 30, 2008

Will County State's Attorney sued for doing his job

Attorneys for Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow will return to federal court Monday, June 30 to defend him against charges of malicious prosecution.

A suit was filed this spring by former airport contractor Rocquin VanGuilder following an acquittal of him and his son Lee on charges of misdemeanor criminal trespassing and criminal damage to property. VanGuilder, the ex-vice president of Hanson Professional Services, which is contracted by the State of Illinois to manage the state-owned property purchased for the proposed Peotone airport, is asking for $200,000 in compensatory damages and $1,000 in punitive damages.

Glasgow’s attorney Martin W. McMannaman of Lowis & Gellen LLP, Chicago, filed a motion last Friday to dismiss the case because as a public official and a prosecutor, Glasgow is immune from prosecution.

It is Glasgow’s duty as the Will County State’s Attorney to meet with witnesses and to prosecute violators of the law.

Glasgow charged the VanGuilders after the Dec. 1, 2006 incident when, in defiance of landowner Mark Baugh, a subcontractor for the State of Illinois hired by Hanson, drove heavy equipment across Baugh’s farm field.

VanGuilder claims that Glasgow publicly stated there was insufficient evidence against him, until after meeting with representatives of the Will County Board, Will Township, and the organization STAND (Shut This Airport Nightmare Down), which caused Glasgow to have a “change of heart.”

VanGuilder claims that Glasgow initiated the charges against him and his son for political motives and for public relations purposes so as to bolster his standing with his constituents.

But this isn’t the first time that VanGuilder has been taken to task on behalf of local landowners in the proposed airport site.

In June 2003, members of STAND met with Timothy Martin, the former transportation secretary. Also in attendance were VanGuilder and Christine Cochrane, ex-airport project manager. Residents confronted the two about what they considered unfair treatment. And they complained to Martin about the treatment they had received at the hands of Hanson employees. Particularly at issue were letters threatening condemnation of their property through eminent domain.

Judy Ogalla, whose family owns a 160-acre farm in the airport site, told Martin that she was appalled that Hansen would call her the day before Christmas Eve. Ogalla said a message was left on her answering machine, so that her three young children could hear it, stating that this is her last chance to sell before the state takes their home.

Martin told the landowners that condemnation would be a last resort. He was visibly angry as he looked directly at Cochrane and VanGuilder. He scolded them as he ordered them to refrain from contact with landowners for 60 days. Further, he said that all issues related to the project must cross his desk.

A July 27, 2005 headline in the Joliet Herald News told a similar story. It read, State to address Peotone airport complaints – Footprint residents: Agents use deception, threats, intimidation to get owners to sell land.

VanGuilder was also at the center of the controversy that erupted in Aug. 7, 2006 when 14 structures were demolished in Will Township. Even State Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson suggested there was a conflict of interest when one company was expected to negotiate and buy properties, rent them, maintain them, and want to destroy them to make way for an airport.

VanGuilder was roundly criticized to the point that his firing was discussed, as he attempted to defend the decision to demolish houses he claimed were not cost effective to rent.

The case in point was the demolition of the Krygsheld house at Eagle Lake and Kedzie roads which was purchased by IDOT for $416,000, just two years after it was built. Two years later, the four-year old house was deemed uninhabitable and torn down. Such demolition flies in the face of statutes governing IDOT’s land acquisition for future rights of way, which states land acquired should be rented.

State Rep. Lisa Dugan was also incensed when VanGuilder attempted to discuss deficient electrical problems with the house. As a former licensed electrician she bristled at his comments. She said the Will County Building Department, with its tough building inspection codes, would not have approved the house for occupancy, had it not been up to code.

Prior to VanGuilder’s employment with Hanson, he was the Project Manager for TAMS, the consultant almost solely responsible for 20 years of airport study. Controversial reports produced by TAMS have been under scrutiny since the project began in 1985.