DeKALB – Jim Mason narrowly beat the buzzer in filing an amended complaint against DeKalb School District 428, claiming the county’s largest school district continues to cover up issues with the residency of its students.
An amended complaint was filed Tuesday in federal court in Rockford by Michael Coghlan on behalf of his client, formerly listed as J. Doe and now identified as Mason, a DeKalb businessman and owner of Mason Properties.
The district filed a motion to dismiss the case in January, and Mason was given until Tuesday to file an amended complaint.
In addition to Mason, DeKalb homeowner Greg Davis and 13 properties owned by Mason are listed as plaintiffs.
The lawsuit continues to assert that district officials have hampered an investigation by the firm it hired, National Investigations, to check students’ residency, and that administrators coached people on how to respond to questions. The suit seeks damages, although no amount is specified other than legal fees, and for the court to order the district to continue working with National Investigations for the next five years.
The suit repeatedly claims the district has concealed 75 percent of known residency violations.
Mason claims payers of property taxes, such as himself, are losing about $7.5 million each year, and businesses are being driven out of town because of the cost of allowing out-of-district students to attend DeKalb schools.
“DeKalb property taxes are in the highest 1 percent in the nation, due in large part to the [District 428’s] knowing violations of residency laws,” the suit states.
At a June School Board meeting, a lawyer who represents the district in the lawsuit said after 20 percent of the district’s residents were investigated, the trend bore out that about 300 students could be nonresidents – compared with the 1,000 or so students Mason claimed were nonresidents in his lawsuit.
Tom Lester, a partner with Rockford-based Hinshaw and Culbertson LLP, said that once letters were sent to families, the number of out-of-district students fell by about 16 percent.
District 428 Superintendent Jamie Craven has said the district will not comment on pending litigation.
The next hearing on the lawsuit will be Aug. 16.