Naperville Park District drops suit against Pritzker over pandemic reopening

  • Naperville Park District commissioners voted to drop a lawsuit they initiated against Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The suit sought the authority for commissioners to make their own decisions about when to reopen activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than being required to follow Pritzker's orders.

      Naperville Park District commissioners voted to drop a lawsuit they initiated against Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The suit sought the authority for commissioners to make their own decisions about when to reopen activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than being required to follow Pritzker's orders. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer, May 29

  • The ability to make local decisions about how and when to reopen activities such as golf was at issue in a lawsuit Naperville Park District commissioners filed against Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Commissioners voted Thursday to drop the suit.

      The ability to make local decisions about how and when to reopen activities such as golf was at issue in a lawsuit Naperville Park District commissioners filed against Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Commissioners voted Thursday to drop the suit. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer, May 1

 
 
Updated 6/26/2020 3:46 PM

Naperville Park District has dropped a lawsuit that sought local authority to make reopening decisions independent of the regulations issued by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

In a 4-3 vote, the park board Thursday voted to dismiss the suit, which it filed May 19, claiming Pritzker overstepped his bounds when he issued executive orders that closed, prevented or limited nonessential activities including gyms, playground use and golf.

 

Commissioners Mike King, Bobby Carlsen, Marie Todd and park board President Mike Reilly voted to drop the legal action on the eve of Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan, which began Friday.

"That removed some of the restrictions that caused some commissioners some concerns," Reilly said.

Last month, commissioners Bill Eagan, Josh McBroom, Rich Janor and King voted in favor of suing in hopes the park board could be granted the ability to make its own judgments about how and when to safely reopen activities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The suit was never about "opening everything up immediately," Janor said.

"The lawsuit was more about enabling our elected board of commissioners to make decisions that are in the best interests of our residents and constituents, as opposed to having everything dictated to us from the state," he said.

DuPage County Judge Bonnie Wheaton ruled the suit did not meet one of four required legal standards in order for her to grant a temporary restraining order releasing the district from Pritzker's rules. She said the suit did not show the park district had a substantial likelihood of winning the case.

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Eagan said he wanted to appeal because he thought Wheaton's ruling was biased. He said earlier regulations limiting golfers to twosomes and allowing only one person in a golf cart are examples of regulations from Pritzker that did not make sense.

"The thought process was random and served a political need," Eagan said.

The district spent $23,000 in legal fees on the lawsuit. Attorney Derke Price of Ancel Glink PC, who serves as the district's regular legal counsel, filed the suit on the district's behalf.

Several times while the lawsuit was pending, the park districts assured residents it was following all state requirements and taking all necessary COVID-19 precautions.

As Phase 4 begins, the park district is awaiting full guidance on what is now allowed. For one example, Reilly said, the district does not yet know if splash pads, like the one newly built at the nearly complete 95th Street Community Plaza, will be allowed to operate.

"We're hoping for relief in Phase 4, but we don't have the guidelines," he said. "That's a great source of frustration."

Gyms, however, are permitted to reopen, meaning the district can allow users back into the Fort Hill Activity Center, its $24 million indoor recreation center completed in 2016.

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