SYCAMORE – Lawyers representing Sycamore residents in a class-action lawsuit filed against the City of Sycamore are in the beginning stages of evidence gathering in the case, related to months of public outcry over concerns about water quality.
Mark Vazquez, a Chicago attorney for plaintiffs Jennifer Campbell and Jeremy Pennington, said Thursday he didn’t have the exact number of people who have reached out to lawyers representing residents in the lawsuit. He said Campbell and Pennington are still the only two Sycamore residents named in the lawsuit, although the number of people in the Facebook group Citizens for Clean Water Sycamore, Illinois climbed up to more than 1,000 members since its September 2020 creation. The social media group is not directly connected to those affiliated with the class-action lawsuit.
“The number of people who are reaching out and have shown interest in the lawsuit has grown significantly,” Vazquez said.
According to federal court documents obtained by the Daily Chronicle, Campbell, of the 400 block of Edward Street, and Pennington, of the 600 block of Park Avenue, filed the lawsuit with class attorneys Steve W. Berman out of Seattle, Washington, and Vazquez on Oct. 30 on several counts that include fraud, deceptive business, negligence and public nuisance.
“Plaintiffs and members of the class have all suffered, and will continue to suffer, harm and damages as a result of the City’s unlawful and wrongful conduct,” according to the complaint.
The class members also allege that the city violated their 14th Amendment due process rights.
“The City, while acting under color of state law, affirmatively created or exacerbated the dangers and dangerous situations to which Plaintiffs were exposed, making them more vulnerable to said dangers, and the City did so with an extreme degree of culpability,” according to the complaint.
Vazquez said legal counsel for the residents currently are in the discovery portion of the case, meaning they have begun to exchange evidence.
“We are beginning what will probably become the longest phase of the case,” Vazquez said.
According to court documents, the City’s counsel filed a motion to change venue and have the case be heard outside of DeKalb County. Vazquez said the judge has yet to submit a written ruling on that matter.
“But they have not filed a motion to dismiss the case,” Vazquez said, referring to the City’s attorneys.
Sycamore city officials repeatedly have declined comment on the lawsuit, citing the ongoing nature of the case, including newly elected Sycamore Mayor Steve Braser.
The lawsuit comes amid continued concern by Sycamore residents expressing dismay over drinking water quality concerns and conflicting lead level water test results, which has some residents calling on the city to address whether water coming into their homes has lead in it. City officials have said the water is safe to drink per state-certification standards, although some residents question its safety.
City officials previously denied the water, which many residents reported is brown and has a foul odor and texture, is unsafe to drink per state-certification standards. City staff also are looking at getting a forgivable loan from the state to replace lead water lines throughout the city. The City Council continues to mull over possibly implementing a separate program that would give a $1,000 utility bill credit for homeowners that replace lead water service lines on their private property.
Vazquez said residents don’t have to be a named a plaintiff in the class-action suit in order to be compensated, should the court rule for the city to do so.