MORRIS – Former Grundy County board member Teryl Lundeen was a Will County resident during part of her term, but was still legally allowed to serve the Grundy taxpayers, according to state’s attorney Jason Helland, who cited Illinois law.
Lundeen’s resignation from the board was officially accepted, 13-1, during the July 8 Grundy County Board meeting, with member Frank Halpin voting against accepting her resignation. He did not state his reasoning during the meeting.
Lundeen listed a Minooka address on public records such as economic interest forms, voter registration cards and other documents. However, a real estate transfer shows that Lundeen sold the Minooka house in March.
Helland’s office conducted an investigation and found evidence that Lundeen is living in a part of Channahon located in Will County.
According to discussion at the July 8 meeting, she did not notify board members of her move outside of the county.
The exact amount of time Lundeen has lived outside of Grundy County is unknown, but chairman of the Grundy County Democrats, Mike Clemmons, told the board Tuesday night he believes Lundeen has lived in Channahon since 2012, based on car titles and other information.
Phone calls made last week to Lundeen were not immediately returned and she was not present at the county board meeting.
But according to Helland, none of that matters, as official residency is not determined solely by a public official’s address.
Helland’s claim is supported by an Illinois Supreme Court case known as People vs. Baumgartner which involved a similar residency question and was decided in 2005.
In the Baumgartner case, an intention to return to the voting district and frequent contact with that district is enough to allow a former resident to legally claim the political residency needed to run for office.
Helland said the Baumgartner case is the only case the Grundy County State’s Attorney’s Office found regarding a conflicting residence of a public official.
“It all comes down to one word: intent,” Helland said. “And in my opinion there is no criminal action here.”
Grundy County Board Chairman Ron Severson said Lundeen traveled to the county “two to three times a week,” for county board meetings alone and had every intention to return to Grundy and build a new home.
“She owns property in the county and has a site plan to build a home there, so that was her whole plan – to return,” Severson said before last week’s meeting.
Lundeen stepped down from the county board almost four weeks ago. In her resignation letter, she did not address speculation about the residency switch. Instead, she said her resignation was prompted by “family, business and personal reasons.”
“With deep regret, I am resigning from the Grundy County Board effective immediately. I enjoyed serving my constituents in District 2 and working with each and every one of you on the County Board,” Lundeen wrote in her official resignation letter, sent June 20.
Severson said he has signed off on all vouchers Lundeen was paid during her non-Grundy residency because he believes the money is legally and rightfully hers.
“We paid her up until the day she resigned,” Severson said in an interview last week. “I signed off on everything. There was no question of any vouchers.”
Helland told the board last week that he will be handing his investigation over to the State’s Appellate Prosecutor who will investigate further, but said he is doubtful any charges will be brought based on the Baumgartner case.
Regardless of the law, some board members expressed frustration at Lundeen’s choice to not be transparent about her residency.
“I don’t care what the law says,” board member Dick Joyce said. “It’s just wrong.”
Severson, with direction from the county board, retains the power to appoint a Republican replacement to Lundeen’s seat.
Lundeen, a Republican, was elected in 2012 to one of the six District 2 Grundy County Board seats and was not up for re-election until November 2016.
By law, Lundeen’s position must be included in the November general election since she completed less than half of her term.
This means her replacement will serve for a brief period of two or three months before facing an election.
The winner of the November election will serve until the expiration of Lundeen’s term in 2016.