MORRIS – A new hearing brought the recusal of a second judge in the Grundy County case involving former Veteran’s Assistance Commission Superintendent Elton Monson.
Monson has filed a series of lawsuits against the county and the current Grundy County Veteran’s Assistance Commission in recent years.
Monson served as superintendent of the VAC from 1999 to 2011 when the commission, later supported by the Grundy County Board, terminated Monson and two other employees at the time, Kathleen Doran and Phyllis Doran.
The most recent lawsuit, filed Dec. 12, 2013, by Monson and Kathleen Doran, was brought against the county and multiple other parties for wrongful termination. Kathleen Doran also filed on behalf of Phyllis Doran, who has since died.
Monson and KathleenDoran are representing themselves and are asking for lost wages, benefits and reimbursements of $247,884.49. In addition, they are asking for $100 million in punitive damages.
Other named parties in the suit are the Morris American Legion, Grundy County Marine Corps League, Disabled American Veterans, Morris VFW, Coal City American Legion, Minooka American Legion, current VAC Superintendent Ken Buck, the VAC, VAC Chairman Harion Enervold, the Kendall County VAC , the Illinois Association of VACs and Judges Robert Marsaglia, Sheldon Sobol and Lance Peterson.
Because all three Grundy County judges were named in the suit, the case will be heard by an appointed Will County judge.
But Monson and Doran have deemed the last two Will county judges to have a conflict of interest and asked for their recusal from the case.
At an early-morning hearing held Monday, Will County Judge Dave Carlson recused himself from the case after disclosing his previous ties to Rathbun, Cservenyak & Kozol law firm, which is representing several of the defendants in the case.
“Judge Carlson has not been on the bench a long period of time in Will County,” Meghan Preston, attorney for Rathbun, Cservenyak & Kozol said Monday afternoon. “In private practice, he had interactions with my firm, including being on the same side of the case, on the opposing side of the case and probably referred cases to us at some point.”
She said the defense did not object to Judge Carlson’s appointment to the case.
“Judge Carlson is a great judge, and I’m sure he would have done a great job and would have been impartial,” Preston said. “But once he made that disclosure, the plaintiffs had the right to object to it.”
Monson said he and Doran had no option but to ask for their recusals.
“These judges have taken money from the opposing attorneys, so what would you do?” Monson said Monday afternoon.
“It’s a losing battle. These people in Will County have so much power,” he continued.
Carlson’s move Monday marks the second judge who has recused himself from the case.
Judge Thomas Carney, who presided over the first few hearings, disclosed to the court his previous connection also to Rathbun, Cservenyak & Kozol, and the plaintiffs requested his removal, as well.
Current Grundy County VAC Superintendent Ken Buck said the lawsuits filed by Monson against the commission are substantially increasing legal fees for the organization, which is funded from the Grundy County General Fund.
“I’ve probably spent $10,000 so far on professional services,” Buck said.
He budgeted $7,700 for professional services this fiscal year.
With the recusal of the latest judge, another Will County judge will be appointed to the case at the next hearing, which is scheduled for 11 a.m. July 23.
“We’re hoping for some more forward progression, but unfortunately, there’s nothing happening as of now,” Buck said.