Proviso Township High Schools District 209 officials recently issued a response to an article published last week about a court ruling related to a former vendor with the district. 

The Forest Park Review previously reported that an Illinois Appellate Court ruled earlier this year that the district has to pay the roughly $1.4 million it owes Restore Construction Company for emergency repairs that took place after a fire broke out at Proviso East High School in 2014. 

The appellate court’s decision reversed a 2017 decision by the Circuit Court of Cook County, which dismissed a lawsuit Restore had filed in order to secure the balance. 

According to a statement issued by Cynthia Moreno, D209’s communications director, the appellate court ruling did not order D209 to pay anything “nor could it, based upon the way that the case was presented to it.” 

Moreno stated the “factual disputes involved in the litigation, including if money is owed, were never addressed by the parties because the Circuit Court determined that Restore’s case was legally deficient. If the matter is eventually remanded to the Circuit Court, then the Circuit Court will determine if Restore is entitled to any more money and, if so, how much. This process has not occurred.”

The two-alarm fire on May 10, 2014 broke out in the second-floor social room at the high school, with smoke spreading to the third-floor chemistry labs. Roughly two weeks later, on May 22, former D209 Supt. Nettie Collins-Hart signed two contracts on behalf of the district — one with “Restore Restoration to mitigate and remediate fire damage and the other with Restore Construction to repair the fire-damaged school. The agreement did not go through the typical competitive bidding process,” according to the appellate court opinion. 

On Aug. 12, 2014, former D209 school board president Dan Adams signed an amended agreement with Restore Construction for emergency repairs, but that amended agreement was never presented to the full school board for approval and a vote. 

Based on the agreement, Restore performed “emergency mitigation and repairs” valued at $6.9 million, with total work valued at $7.3 million. By February 2015, Legat, the district’s architectural firm, had certified that Restore had completed $5.8 million worth of work, which was paid through the district’s insurance policy. 

Forest Park Review previously reported that by 2015, the board had stopped paying on the total due and owed $1.4 million. The D209 school board has argued that they don’t have to pay the remainder, because the contract was never valid in the first place.

In her statement Moreno explained that while Restore claims that it’s owed an additional $1.4 million, “District 209’s insurance carrier has already concluded that Restore was paid full value for the work and is not entitled to any money. … It must be understood and clear that the Board never stopped paying anything for the fire loss. It never made any payments for the fire loss since the matter was covered by the District’s insurance policy.”

As this paper previously reported, Restore filed a lawsuit in Circuit Court on October 2015, but that lawsuit was dismissed a year later. The company then appealed the decision.

According to a summary of the case by attorneys with the labor law firm Franczek P.C., which doesn’t represent either side, Restore “sought payment for what it was owed based on equitable principles, not the existence of a valid contract. The Appellate Court held that even though there was no valid contract in place, it would be unjust to allow the school district to retain the company’s services without paying the reasonable value for them. Thus, a contract implied in law could be enforced against the school district.”

Franzcek P.C. attorneys stated on Nov. 5 that the Illinois Supreme Court “has agreed to review the case, so it remains to be seen if the decision will stand,” adding that the state Supreme Court’s decision could affect other districts across Illinois that have “avoided liability for work performed by construction companies under invalid contracts.”

Moreno said that “while the District respects the decision of the Illinois Appellate Court, it believes that it was wrong which is why it decided to ask the Supreme Court to review the case,” adding that the high court’s discretionary review is allowed “in less than 2% of civil cases filed in Illinois Supreme Court.”