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Judge denies Aurora request to dismiss AHA case

Updated: November 5, 2012 11:42AM

A Kane County judge Wednesday denied a motion by the city of Aurora to dismiss a complaint filed by the Aurora Housing Authority.

City attorney Alayne Weingartz said in a statement that Judge Thomas Mueller cited a 2011 Illinois Supreme Court decision in a Chicago case that limited the use of home rule powers. Mueller said Aurora’s local home rule power cannot overrule the federal government’s greater interest in housing issues.

The Aurora Housing Authority is almost completely funded by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development dollars, said City Assistant Chief of Staff Rick Guzman.

Weingartz said the city is disappointed with the decision, and she was somewhat surprised at the judge’s interpretation of the Chicago case.

“In order for the city to retain all options for appeal, the city will now be filing its full answer to the AHA’s complaint,” Weingartz said.

Guzman said the city’s answer to the Housing Authority complaint is due on Oct. 10. A court date will follow, he said.

The AHA complaint asks the court to weigh in on a disagreement between the city and the Housing Authority regarding the terms of AHA board members Al Schuler and Bill Burns.

In September, AHA attorney Jennifer Soule said the expiration dates for the terms of Schuler and Burns were recorded incorrectly by the city. Soule said Schuler’s term should expire in 2014, and Burns’ term in 2013.

City officials, however, argued that the terms of both Schuler and Burns actually expired this month. Guzman said the City Council minutes specifically list term expiration dates for Burns and Schuler.

Under Illinois code, Burns and Schuler both should have been reappointed to five-year terms, the AHA attorney argued. But city attorneys contend the city’s home rule authority trumps the statutory five-year terms.

Weingartz said the city’s position is that home rule power granted by the Illinois Constitution allows the city to provide for different term lengths for AHA board members than what a state Housing Authority Act requires.

“Because the actions of local housing authorities have significant impacts on local resources, we continue to believe home rule authority applies,” Weingartz said.

Mueller kept in place a temporary restraining order that prevents Mayor Tom Weisner’s new AHA board appointees, Shauna Wiet and Scott Voris, from being seated to the board as replacements for Schuler and Burns.

Also Wednesday, Mueller lifted a temporary restraining order that kept the AHA board from voting on Jericho Circle redevelopment issues, Guzman said.

Soule could not be reached Wednesday.

Chicago case

In the 2011 Chicago case, the Illinois Supreme Court decided online ticket reseller StubHub Inc. was not required to collect a Chicago amusement tax.

“The city has overstepped its home rule authority,” Justice Mary Jane Theis wrote in that case.

Chicago sued StubHub in 2008, claiming it had sold tickets for thousands of events in the city without collecting the amusement tax. The court unanimously decided that only the state, not municipalities, can impose a taxing obligation on online auctioneers.

Sun-Times Media contributed to this report.

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