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Hinsdale, Illinois |

Published May 25, 2017

Settlement offer made; HMS still in limbo 

By Ken Knutson

Monday was a day of activity for both sides of the lawsuit against the construction of a new Hinsdale Middle School. But it’s unclear whether any of it will lead to resolution.
   In the morning, Andrew Schmidt, one of five plaintiffs in the legal action challenging the legitimacy of last November’s successful referendum to build the school due to a publication discrepancy, issued a statement saying he and his fellow plaintiffs had submitted a proposed settlement May 17 to the district “that will help the board follow election laws in the future and improve transparency.”
   The five filed suit because the DuPage County Election Commission published the public notice of the referendum three days too early. Law requires the suit name the district, not the commission, as the defendant.
   The statement gave no details but indicated the proposal involves restructuring the planned financing of the bonds, citing “significant opportunities to save money as well, especially given the very expensive back-end loaded bonds few taxpayers understand (vs. a traditional 20-year bond),” it read. “As the settlement is in line with all D181 goals, we would hope the board would be pleased to sign it as soon as possible.”
   According to the statement, the plaintiffs were invited by the District 181 Board to its executive session Monday night to review the settlement. Neither Schmidt nor the district has responded to inquiries about whether that executive session meeting took place.
   Board President Jennifer Burns and Superintendent Don White issued a joint statement before Monday night’s school board meeting, saying the district does not comment on ongoing lawsuits.
   “The district remains committed to building a new Hinsdale Middle School and delivering the new building as close to on time and on budget as possible given the pending Schmidt litigation. It is the district’s policy not to comment on pending litigation and instead to litigate in court rather than through press releases. We continue to work with counsel in exploring all means of resolving the Schmidt litigation and will give due consideration to all settlement proposals made in good faith,” the district statement read.
   Meanwhile district residents opposed to the lawsuit rallied and marched in Clarendon Hills.
   Chants of “Drop the suit!” and “Respect the vote!” punctuated the demonstration that brought out a couple of hundred people, first for a gathering in Hosek Park, followed by a procession through village streets. The route was planned so as to take the march by plaintiffs’ homes.
   The plaintiffs have until June 1 to appeal DuPage Circuit Court Judge Bonnie Wheaton’s ruling against them earlier this month. That is also the day construction needs to begin on the project if the school is to be finished for the start of the 2018-19 school year. Bond counsel will not sign off on selling bonds to fund the work until the litigation is resolved.
   In his update to board members Monday, owner’s representative Kerry Leonard indicated that the completion date would be pushed back to December 2018 in the event of further delays. The project is already six weeks behind schedule because of the lawsuit.
   “When a construction start date is known, bids can be awarded using the appropriate alternate schedule,” he said. “There are increased costs to the district for each of the alternative schedules; the longer the delay, the greater the increased costs.”


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