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Judge upholds significant claims in Lake County Fielders’ suit

Lake County Fielders field corner Route 173 Green Bay Road Zion. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media

Lake County Fielders field at the corner of Route 173 and Green Bay Road in Zion. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 2, 2013 12:40PM

Lake County Circuit Court Judge Jorge Ortiz issued a mixed ruling Thursday on a lawsuit filed by the Lake County Fielders against Zion officials and a developer.

The ruling retains significant claims while also dismissing some aspects of the suit.

The matter remains far from resolved, and a status hearing is set for Dec. 4. Fielders attorney Stephen Boulton left the courthouse satisfied that significant claims in the $10 million lawsuit remain.

“The big thing is that the fraud and conspiracy claim against the mayor (Lane Harrison) and (former economic development director Delaine) Rogers has been upheld,” Boulton said after the 37-page ruling was issued.

Citing immunity for city officials, Zion attorneys attempted to have Harrison and Rogers removed from the suit. Rogers is no longer employed by the city and now works for the main developer named in the suit.

The city of Zion remains in the lawsuit on one count and was dismissed in another, Boulton said.

The lawsuit claims that Harrison and the city reneged on promises to build a $6 million stadium, noting that the Zion City Council approved the bonds needed to fund the project.

The minor league baseball team, including owner Rich Ehrenreich, filed civil conspiracy charges in the team’s lawsuit.

The team contends Harrison, Rogers and developer Richard Delisle conspired to keep information from the team about heavy debt on the new ballpark site — a more than $7 million mortgage — and that the three also conspired to defraud the team and provide potential profit to companies tied to Delisle.

Mayor Harrison has not returned calls for comment.

More than $7 million in city funds has been spent related to the stadium project, including site preparation, lighting and legal fees.

The stadium’s 2009 ground-breaking ceremony promised to usher in a “field of dreams” era of local minor league baseball, but the team played its 2010 season in a makeshift stadium at the site where the permanent one was to be built.

The 2011 season began with away games before players and managers quit because they weren’t being paid.

Boulton said the Fielders organization is dormant but has not filed bankruptcy, and that the team could be rebuilt and ready to go in 60 to 70 days.

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