SYCAMORE – The DeKalb County Board authorized the clerk and recorder's office Wednesday to file a class action lawsuit against mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to recover unpaid taxes.
The county will likely be joined by other counties in the class action lawsuit as there are potentially millions in unpaid transfer taxes on real estate transactions from the mortgage companies, which DeKalb County Clerk John Acardo said wrongfully claimed government entity exemptions.
DeKalb County has lost out on more than $40,000 in the past five years, but the potential court winnings could be significantly more, Acardo said.
Board Chairman Larry Anderson, R-Malta, said it was the right move for Acardo's office to take because other counties have received transfer tax payments from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
"It's a good move," he said. "Other counties have been collecting [the tax] so DeKalb County should be collecting it too."
All the board members supported the measure except Paul Stoddard, D-DeKalb, and John Hulseberg, D-Sycamore, who voted against it. Anita Jo Turner, D-Sycamore, abstained.
Hulseberg said he had concerns after presentations in closed sessions. He was unsure which counties, some with much larger sums of outstanding tax, would sign on to the lawsuit, and he said it remained unclear how much DeKalb County stood to gain.
He said with so many unknowns, it would make more sense to join a class action lawsuit later in the process.
The board also approved law firm Foote, Meyers, Mielke & Flowers LLC, of St. Charles, to handle the class action lawsuit because it is beyond the resources of DeKalb County State's Attorney Clay Campbell.
At the meeting, Campbell was taken to task by the board, which admonished him for actions he took against the county's drug court program.
In April, Campbell said no new applicants would be accepted into drug court until he completed an investigation into the effectiveness of the program. He decided to investigate the program after receiving information that a drug court staff member had an inappropriate relationship with a drug court participant – conduct that caused that staff member to be fired.
Members passed a resolution that voiced support for the program and admonished Campbell, which some members objected to.
Julia Fullerton, R-DeKalb, attempted to table the resolution and asked for people to come together to find a solution. Charles Foster, R-Shabbona, agreed with Fullerton and said there was nothing to be gained by admonishing Campbell.
"I just wonder … where we feel we have that authority to admonish another elected official," said Ken Andersen, R-Sycamore, who attempted to strike the admonishment from the resolution. "It's not our job."
The motion to remove the language admonishing Campbell failed by a vote of 9-11.
Campbell, who did not speak on the issue at May's Law and Justice Committee because of the pending investigation, also declined to speak on the issue Wednesday because he was acting as the board's attorney and legal adviser for the meeting. He said he did not believe it was appropriate to step out of that role.
Turner, who serves on the Law and Justice Committee, supported the admonishment and said it was unprofessional of Campbell to notify the committee hours before it met in May that he would be unable to speak on the issue.
"We need to act like adults," she said. "And I don't think he does."
The drug court is a voluntary program that requires participants to complete treatment, appear in court, undergo drug testing and more.
Participants receive treatment and rehabilitation in a five-phase program; each phase takes about three months. Those who don’t complete phases face sanctions, including community service or having to redo phases.