News Feature | July 27, 2017

Judge Wrests Control Of City's Treatment Operations

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

gavel reg new

A suburb south of Chicago will lose control of its water operation because of what a judge called “years of illegal conduct” by city officials.

“Records show the city of Harvey had long taken water from Chicago, resold it and used the cash to keep the financially shaky town afloat. It joined a host of other questionable financial moves by the suburb's leaders that have spurred federal investigations but no criminal charges,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

A judge issued a ruling on July 19, calling it “undisputed” that Harvey's water finances are in disarray “and are being unlawfully raided by Harvey's government to pay for non-water related expenses.”

“Cook County Circuit Judge Kathleen Pantle noted in [the ruling] that millions of dollars were missing and another $26 million misspent by Harvey. The ruling indicates Harvey resold water from Chicago and used the cash for non-water-related expenses,” the Associated Press reported.

Per Pantle’s decision, a receiver will likely be appointed to take over Harvey’s water operation. Pantle called Harvey’s conduct “egregious.”

“She said she wanted to ensure the safety and reliability of the pipes and other infrastructure in Harvey,” the AP reported.

This is the heart of the problem with Harvey’s conduct, per the Tribune:

Harvey gets water directly from Chicago and resells it to its residents and five other suburbs. It's done so for 100 years as the suburb of 25,000 residents grew into a blue-collar powerhouse in the mid-20th century, then faced hard times as factories closed and demographics shifted. Harvey fell behind nearly $22 million on payments and past-due fees owed to Chicago. Harvey eventually cut a deal to pay back the money over time, then repeatedly reneged on that deal, the judge said.

Harvey officials do not see eye to eye with the judge.

“In an email, Harvey spokesman Sean Howard said city officials disagree with the court's decision,” the AP reported.

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