Both sides in Vienna prison lawsuit to have their day in court

Saturday, May 4, 2002

VIENNA, Ill. -- Lawyers for a state employees' union will try to convince a judge here Monday that Gov. George Ryan doesn't have the right to close the Vienna Correctional Center before the current fiscal year is over, a union official said Friday.

The 5th District Appellate Court on Thursday upheld a lower court's order temporarily banning the state from moving prisoners or laying off staff at the prison, making way for a hearing on the case Monday in Johnson County Circuit Court.

Ryan has proposed closing the minimum-security prison as well as a juvenile detention center in St. Charles and a mental health center in Zeller to help fill a $1.2 billion state budget deficit and meet $1 billion in overdue bills.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees sought a temporary restraining order to forestall the Valley View closure as well, but a Cook County judge denied the union's motion last week.

But Johnson County Judge James R. Williamson granted the union's similar motion regarding Vienna, which AFSCME maintains cannot be shuttered by the target May 15 date since the General Assembly voted to fund it to June 30, the end of the fiscal year, said Buddy Maupin, AFSCME's regional director for Southern Illinois.

Lawyers from the attorney general's office will try to persuade Williamson to dismiss the union's lawsuit and allow the closure to go forward.

If the state's motion is granted, "we're done. We lose," Maupin said. "If it's denied, the judge will set a trial date" for the union's lawsuit, he said.

Some 350 people are expected to lose their jobs at the prison or be offered transfers to other prisons if Ryan's plans go into effect.

The union's strategy is to delay the planned closing long enough to persuade lawmakers in Springfield to defeat Ryan's proposal and fund the facility beyond June 30.

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