KANKAKEE — A judge’s decision could come on Jan. 20 as to whether a lawsuit pitting the Kankakee County Convention & Visitors Bureau against the Village of Bradley will continue.
The suit, brought by the CVB, claims a five-year intergovernmental agreement with the village dated April 22, 2019, is valid. Bradley argues otherwise.
The CVB promotes tourism in Kankakee County.
About 90 percent of the CVB’s nearly $900,000 budget comes through hotel taxes and 67 percent of those tax dollars comes from Bradley-based establishments. Of the 14 hotels and motels within Kankakee County, eight are in Bradley. The others are located in Bourbonnais, Manteno, Momence, Kankakee and unincorporated Kankakee County. Local tourism taxes can only be spent on promotion of tourism and travel.
“If they are not going to respond to numerous requests, there is not much reason to not rule in our favor in regards to the agreement,” CVB attorney John Cainkar said after the hearing.
Wednesday’s hearing went forward despite Bradley’s attorney Jamie Boyd not being present. When Boyd didn’t show for the hearing, Kankakee County Circuit Court Associate Judge Scott Sliwinski said he had not been contacted by Boyd and asked Cainkar if he had had any correspondence with him.
Cainkar said he received a text message earlier in which Boyd said he was going to ask for a continuance. Cainkar said he did not answer the message. At the judge’s request, Cainkar placed a call to Boyd at the hearing but it went to voicemail.
Bradley Mayor Pro Tem Mike Watson, when contacted after the hearing, said Boyd was feeling ill on Tuesday and that the village would have had someone there if he had known Boyd wouldn’t have been in attendance.
Cainkar argued the delays have come at a cost to the CVB.
CVB executive director Staci Wilken is running the office out of her house. She is the lone employee. Three employees have been laid off,” Cainkar said.
“It is time to let the CVB get back to doing its job,” he said. “It is time to take the money [which was placed] in escrow. They have had three months and given us no response. They have not tried to contact us. Allow us to use the resources for the people of Kankakee County.”
The intergovernmental agreement, which had been routinely approved in past years, came under fire by Watson as a trustee in 2018.
At that time, Watson questioned how the money generated in Bradley was being used to benefit Bradley. The CVB countered the money was used to promote tourism for all of Kankakee County, not specifically Bradley.
As the battle intensified and the contract needed to be approved prior to April 30, 2019, the village board adopted the agreement. The vote was taken as the old board was exiting its term and a new board majority was being sworn into office, which was another point of contention. A tie-breaking vote was cast by then-Bradley Mayor Bruce Adams, who resigned April 26, just days after the vote.
At a special village board meeting on April 29, a meeting in which Watson served as the mayor pro tem, the newly seated board voted to withdraw the village from the CVB.
Since Aug. 1, 2019, the local hotel taxes have been held by the Kankakee County Treasurer until the matter is resolved.