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County Issues Bonds For Millions in Outstanding Lawsuits, Claims
More than $8 million is the estimated price tag of outstanding lawsuits and other claims against Sangamon County.
The Sangamon County Board is issuing bonds hoping the proceeds will help them pay off that debt over the next ten years.
The claims are everything from a fall down county-owned steps to a deputy hitting someone's car.
"This society is very sue-happy you might say. More and more people take things to court and sue," Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson said.
More and more people are also targeting the sheriff's office. In fact, the bulk of the claims the county is fighting are against them.
"I think it's just the nature of our job. It's that we arrest people, we have to fight people, we incarcerate people," Williamson said.
And three people the Sangamon County Sheriff's Office has incarcerated have died in jail just in the past few years.
Perhaps most memorably, Paul Carlock, the accused pedophile with diabetes who died after deputies tased him outside this cell
The county has already spent $2 million in legal fees defending the case but it has yet to make it to court.
"We feel it's our responsibility as not just the sheriff's department but as watch dogs for the county citizen's taxpayer money that we're not just going to hand over the money if someone decides to sue us, we are vigorously going to defend these suits," Williamson said.
The Sangamon County Board voted to borrow more than $8 million in bonds to pay for all the things that come with taking a case to court.
"Legal costs, expert witnesses, claims against the county, judgments against the county," Sangamon County Board Administrator Brian McFadden said.
McFadden says they are looking to pay those bonds back within 10 years.
"Sure it's difficult and you're right the money is always tight but what happened with this reserve, it's basically run dry. It did what it was supposed to do over a of time and we're just following past practice, we're going to recede the fund," McFadden said.
Because some of these claims have not yet made it to court this $8 million is just an estimate. It could end up being higher or it could end up being lower.
The county board reached the estimate with the help of an actuary. If the county ends up spending less than $8 million in the next ten years they can keep that money for similar issues in the future.