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Chairman Frank Haney sues members of the Winnebago County Board

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Chairman Frank Haney and dozens of voters sue members of the Winnebago County Board.

The federal lawsuit names 13 members of the board. They are David Boomer, Dave Fiduccia, Joe Hoffman, Fred Wescott, Jim Webster, Jaime Salgado, Angie Goral, Dorothy Redd, Dave Tassoni, Burt Gerl, Steve Schultz, Keith McDonald, and Paul Arena.

The complaint claims the position of the chairman has essentially been terminated midterm without voter input.

“All of a sudden, I’m outside of a government that I got voted in to serve for a particular time of four years,” said Haney. “It is unprecedented what is happened. This isn’t happening in other communities, in other counties.”

The lawsuit includes 47 Winnebago County residents as plaintiffs along with Haney.

Scott Anderson worked on Haney’s campaign and is one of them.

“We don’t change the rules of the game during the game,” said Anderson. “I’m very surprised at the things that have happened and that the will of the voters has been taken away.”

Paul Arena (R, Dist. 7) is one of the 13 being sued. He says, as a recently elected board member, he hasn’t been part of many changes to the chairman’s role.

“All of the votes that I’ve taken have been for specific reasons to deal with situations that were in-front of us,” said Arena. “I think it’s important for the board to be able to take action when they need to.”

The nine count lawsuit includes the claim voting rights are being violated. Haney hopes to see the changes to his role rolled back.

“We need to have a discussion about making permanent that whatever the future of the position is going to be, that we’re going to respect the people who cast ballots,” Haney said. “We’re not going to be changing things mid-term.”

Jim Webster (R, Dist. 2) is also named as a defendant in the federal complaint, he hopes to see the lawsuit dropped.

“All these lawsuits are costing the taxpayers money,” Webster said. “At our last board meeting, we had to wind up paying 42 or $47,000 for a private attorney.”

Some members are looking towards moving forward.

“I think once the court has made its ruling and there’s clarity, we’ll be able to move forward and just continue the work that we’ve been doing,” Arena said.

Haney was elected in November 2016, since then seven ordinances have been passed that either eliminate or change the chairman’s duties.

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