Judges will sue Rock Island County to build a new courthouse if the April 9 referendum fails, according to Rock Island County State's Attorney John McGehee.
The referendum will ask the public if they support expanding the power of the county's public building commission, which would allow the commission to finance a new courthouse.
But the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit judges who eagerly want a new courthouse have already laid the groundwork to sue the county after the referendum if it fails.
In December, Chief Judge Jeffrey O'Connor served Mr. McGehee with an intent to sue the county to build a new courthouse.At a meeting Wednesday, Mr. McGehee said he believed the judges would carry out the threat.
The county board would be mandated to introduce a special tax to pay for a new courthouse if the lawsuit was successful, Mr. McGehee said.
The Illinois Supreme Court requires the county to provide a courthouse that meets certain standards. The county's courthouse fails to meet many of the requirements and is in generally bad shape, according to the judges and other county officials.
Mr. McGehee spoke at Wednesday's meeting of the ad hoc committee established by Rock Island County Board Chairman Phil Banaszek to look at the future of the courthouse and other county buildings.
The committee will present its findings and make a recommendation to the county board.
Mr. McGehee also said that, if a lawsuit is successfully brought against the county, the law would require the debt created to build a new courthouse to be paid off in 10 years.If the county borrowed money through the public building commission, the debt could be retired over a longer period, which would reduce the cost of the project.
Real estate appraiser Pat Wendt, one of the members of the ad hoc committee, said the judges would likely win if they sue the county.
"When a judge takes something before a judge, the judge wins," he said.
Mr. McGehee said an outside judge would be brought in to hear the lawsuit if the judges sue the county.
"It hasn't been done, so there's not a lot of precedent," he said.
Meanwhile, local developers, unions and judges are putting money behind a campaign supporting the April 9 referendum to expand the power of the public building commission.
At present, the commission is limited to jail projects only. A "yes" vote would allow the commission to issue bonds for any county building project if directed to do so by the county board.
Jeffrey Jacobs, an attorney with local firm Bozeman, Neighbour, Patton & Noe, last month founded the Progress Rock Island political action committee, which is funding a direct mail campaign in favor of a "yes" vote.
The PAC has raised $20,000 since Feb. 9, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.Donors include LRC Developers, the development company that has offered a site at the Quad Cities Industrial Center for a new county courthouse and administration building.
Estes Construction, which has performed studies for the county on the courthouse question, also has contributed to the PAC.The fundraising committee of state Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, also has made a donation, as have a number of local judges, including Chief Judge O'Connor.
Other donors include the Tri-City Building Trades Council, the Associated General Contractors of the Quad Cities and Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 25.
Today is Saturday, Aug. 30, the 242nd day of 2014. There are 123 days left in the year.
1864 — 150 years ago: A large pair of elk, captured in Iowa, were exhibited in Market Square today. 1889 — 125 years ago: The Rock Island Arsenal dam was being constructed under the supervision of Charles Frances, of Lowell, Mass. 1914 — 100 years ago: Mrs. Frank Mixer, of Rock Island, was the winner of the final preliminary for the women's handicap golf cup at Rock Island arsenal links. 1939 — 75 years ago: Sixteen hundred persons — many from war-fearful Europe — arrived in New York aboard the German liner Bremen. For two days on the trip, passengers were cut off from the world with both incoming and outgoing radio messages banned. 1964 — 50 years ago: Police reported five youths have been involved in the theft of about seven cars in recent weeks. Three of the youths were arrested Saturday afternoon, one was in custody as the result of a previous arrest, and the fifth is expected to be arrested today. 1989 — 25 years ago: The Rock Island/Milan School Board is asking the city to tear down Franklin School and allow the school district to pay back the estimated $100,00 cost during 10 years.