Bongartz: Smith, La Salle County GOP owe me nearly $3,600 in legal fees

Judge to consider Friday how much clerk gets in sanctions

A judge decided La Salle County Clerk Lori Bongartz was entitled to get back some of her legal fees after an eight-month dispute over mail-in ballots. Bongartz’s lawyer says now that total is $3,570.50.

Grundy County Judge Scott M. Belt will conduct a hearing Friday on whether Bongartz gets the requested sum from Larry Smith, who filed an action against Bongartz on behalf of the La Salle County Republican Central Committee.

Streator attorney Matt Krueger filed a petition for fees and costs showing he spent about 19 hours on the portion of the case Belt deemed eligible for reimbursement. At an hourly rate of $185, Krueger said Smith and/or the GOP should pay $3,570.50.

As previously reported, Smith challenged the Nov. 3 handling of mail-in votes and eventually asked Belt to overturn the race for La Salle County state’s attorney, won by Democrat Todd Martin. Belt dismissed the case and granted sanctions for unsubstantiated allegations made against Bongartz.

“This court finds that plaintiff’s (county GOP chairman Larry Smith’s) conduct was willful and harmful to both the judicial system and the defendant, Lori Bongartz,” Belt wrote in a ruling issued earlier this month.

A formal reply by Sandwich attorney William Hotopp, who represents Smith and the GOP, was not on file with the La Salle County Circuit Clerk’s Office as of midday Wednesday. Smith had stated previously they are reviewing Belt’s ruling and had not yet decided whether to appeal.

Tom Collins

Tom Collins covers criminal justice in La Salle County.