EDWARDSVILLE — A third lawsuit has been filed against Madison County seeking class-action status in the wake of ex-Treasurer Fred Bathon's federal guilty plea to rigging the county's annual delinquent tax auction.
Named as defendants are Bathon; Jim Foley, a former investment officer under Bathon; and Kurt Prenzler in his official capacity as county treasurer.
Also named as defendants are the taxbuyers Barrett Rochman, of Carbondale; Dennis Ballinger, of Decatur; and Scott Sieron, Scott McLean and John Vassen, all of Belleville, as well as the businesses they run.
Plaintiff Geralyn Lindow, of Alton, alleges that Bathon, during his last six years as treasurer, from 2004-09, conspired with his co-defendants to change the bidding process to require "a one time, simultaneous bidding -- a so-called 'no trailing bid' policy."
In addition, Bathon used a seating chart to ensure that the tax purchaser defendants were recognized by the auctioneer as winning bidders. Bathon also directed Foley, the auctioneer, "to disperse the winning bids from the various auctions between such tax purchaser defendants," according to the lawsuit.
Prenzler declined comment.
Bathon pleaded guilty in early February in U.S. district court in East St. Louis to a criminal charge of rigging the tax sale so that his political donors profited from inflated penalties paid by property owners.
Bathon, according to his plea agreement, could receive a prison sentence of between 31 and 40 months, though his sentence could be reduced based on his cooperation with federal law enforcement.
Bathon's guilty plea, as well as the two other class action lawsuits, occurred more than two years after a September 2010 series by the News-Democrat that exposed Bathon's bid-rigging scheme.
The class action lawsuit was filed Friday by St. Louis attorney Nelson L. Mitten on Lindow's behalf. Two other suits were filed earlier this month.
Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at email@example.com or 618-239-2533.