Settlement with Journal-Courier finds Village “Willfully Failed to Comply” Through Actions of Former Mayor

By Jeremy Coumbes on March 18, 2022 at 9:43am

The Village of South Jacksonville has settled a pair of ongoing lawsuits filed against the municipality, one of which also named a Village employee.

The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve each of the two settlements during a special meeting last night ahead of the regularly scheduled Committee of the Whole.

The Board first considered a settlement with Jacksonville Affordable Housing, over water and sewer billing for the Laborer’s Home complex that was filed against the Village in 2016, in which JAH attested the Village overcharged the company for water and sewer services. 33 water meters supply the 254 apartment units in the complex, which has not paid any of the billing during the dispute between June of 2015 and October of last year.

According to the agreement, JAH has been credited a total of $70,909.88 and will receive a monthly credit of 50% against the gross amount due on each meter until the balance of the credit is reached. JAH will then pay the full billing amount for each meter at an agreed rate of $10.16 for water and $40.20 for wastewater going forward.

Village President Dick Samples said following the meeting, the agreement is in the best interest of both parties. “It was a mutual agreement between the two of us, and the two of us being the Village and Labor Drive through the attorneys. They worded it and we agreed on it. Basically, we are going to give them back seventy thousand dollars in lieu of payment. They are just going to take half of the water bill and won’t have to pay it. It’s a win-win for us and them too.”

The second vote of approval was for a lawsuit filed by the Edwardsville Publishing Company, which is the parent company of the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, who filed the suit on July 7th of last year accusing the Village and its Freedom of Information Officer Amy Oxley, committed a FOIA violation after a reporter requested documents related to an altercation between former Village President Tyson Manker and former Board Trustee Jason Hill.

In the agreement, the court found specifically that FOIA Officer and Office Manager Amy Oxley performed her duties according to the Freedom of Information Act and dismissed any claims against her.

The court also found that the Village willfully and intentionally failed to comply with the Freedom of Information Act through the actions of former Village President Manker who acted in bad faith during his official capacity as Mayor.

The Village of South Jacksonville was ordered to pay $2,500.00 to Edwardsville Publishing in civil damages, and attorney fees of one dollar. Samples said during the meeting that $2,500 is the minimum judgment allowed in this type of case. Samples declined to give further comment on the FOIA settlement.