Aldermen on the Human Services Committee balked Monday at paying an additional $75,000 in legal bills resulting from lawsuits filed over actions of Township Assessor Sharon Eckersall.

The cost to taxpayers of defending suits filed by three disgruntled former employees of the assessor had already reached $300,000 before the latest charges submitted by Johnston, Greene, LLC of Chicago.

Eckersall, who earns $6,000 a year in the part-time elected position running the assessor’s office, currently has just one full-time employee.

The legal fees have greatly exceeded the rest of the annual budget for the assessor’s office.

One of the lawsuits has been dismissed and an agreement to settle the second suit reportedly has been reached. The third suit has yet to go to trial.

The aldermen directed city attorney Elke Tober-Purze to review the latest legal charges in an effort to get them reduced.

Several aldermen have announced their support for Bonnie Wilson, who is seeking to replace Eckersall in next month’s municipal election.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Outrageous Treatment Of Evanston Township Assessor By Alderman
    Bill Smith,

    I attended the Human Services Committee and though not a reporter, I always take notes at meetings. Let’s go from the beginning till the end of the meeting. Ms. Eckersall had to shout twice to amend the minutes from the last meeting which were incorrect. Next, Elke was being grilled about the legal fees by Ald. Bernstein, she kept turning to Ms. Eckersall for answers and Ald. Bernstein wouldn’t recognize her. Ald. Jean Baptiste was rightfully angry with Elke about the legal bill and told Elke : It’s not right that these lawyers extract that much money from the City, when we give them so much work”. Well, wouldn’t it be great to audit the City’s legal bills and find out how many are so outrageous.

    You really miss the boat here Bill, with not reporting Ald. Bernstein’s personal attacks on Ms. Ekersall at this meeting his behavior is totally inappropiate to a fellow elected official, a taxpaying citizen and in a public forum. Like Ald. Rainey’s previous personal attack I witnessed at the budget workshops in January, it’s amazing the non reporting of these attacks. Since this is election season, surely Ald. Bernstein and Rainey must try to create any negative issue they can regarding the assessor’s office, so their endorsed candidate Ms. Wilson can return the office to “machine control”. However, these aldermen who have cut the Assesor’s budget by more than 50k in the last year and then have the audacity to have Ms. Wilson at the LWVE forum try to complain about the office needs to function better. The taxpayers are hurt by the reduction in the Township Assessor’s budget that Bernstein and Rainey have created, shame on them. Ms. Wilson went as far as to say Sunday that if elected she’ll get more funds for the office. So what’s the honest campaign slogan? “Vote for Bonnie “the Machine Candidate” and we’ll restore the Assessor’s budget to it’s previous level. Not only is this unethical, but punishing the taxpaying citizens during this difficult time in real estate taxation, so the unqualified “machine candidate” can have better odds in the election cries out for a full investigation. Finally in response to 2 more quotes from Ald. Bernstein to Sharon Eckersall: “You have little credibility with me!” and “Your latest lawsuit is about defamation of character not my budget cuts!” Ald. Bernstein (a lawyer) should no better that he is not judge and jury. A court of law will decide the defamation of character count against Ms. Eckersall, but what I witnessed last night was pretty vicious, unprofessional attack by Ald Bernstein. Not surprisingly, Ald. Tisdahl showed her usual lack of leadership and spine by saying nothing about this outburst by Ald. Bernstein. In staying silent, Ald. Tisdahl is tacitly guilty of supporting personal attacks on elected officials in a public forum. Shame on her, also. I have called for live streaming of all COE meetings, not just Council meetings, so the citizens at THEIR CONVENIENCE can witness their elected officials behavior and comments on the City’s website. Perhaps, the fact that these meetings are live and recorded for posterity, will change the outrageous behavior I had to witness last night.

    Kevin O’Connor
    Citizen/Candidate for 7th Ward Alderman

  2. A part-time official gets us $375K in legal bills and not done?
    That’s the real story. How can a part-time official whose office does so little tick off three employees enough to get the city sued by all three of them?

    I don’t know either candidate for assessor and, until now, had no reason to vote for one of them or the other. But three lawsuits from three employees…suppose that says something about the assessor’s management skills? I can’t blame Alderman Bernstein and Alderman Rainey if they have run out of patience with what sounds like a farce of an office.

    Let’s stop the red ink and elect a replacement who will hopefully know who to operate an office without getting the City sued. Ms. Wilson has my vote.

  3. Perfect timing to end the farce
    Rather than supporting one candidate or another for township assessor, this seems like the perfect opportunity to shut down the township entirely and put an end to this useless, redundant, corrupt, antiquated, money-wasting entity. The township does nothing for Evanston or its citizens, but somehow we taxpaerys always end up on the hook for the various follies of its gold-bricking employees.

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