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BLOOMINGTON -- A Park Ridge attorney has been hired by the city of Bloomington to give a second opinion on whether Alderman Judy Stearns is eligible to serve another term on the City Council.

John Zimmermann of the Park Ridge law firm of Raysa and Zimmermann will be paid an estimated $1,500 and is expected to file a written opinion by the council's June 13 meeting, said city attorney Todd Greenburg.

The council voted 7-1 in a special session on May 9 to seek a second opinion in the matter.

Stearns, who beat Carol Koos by 64 votes in the April 5 election, was not sworn in to a new term after questions were raised about whether she owed the city property tax money because she had multiple homestead exemptions.

Homestead exemptions are available to owner-occupied, residential homes and reduce the assessed valuation and therefore the amount of taxes owed. Stearns and her husband have four homestead exemptions, including two in Bloomington.

Greenburg said that under a February appellate court ruling, a candidate was kicked off a ballot because she owed the city of Chicago money and was not qualified to serve. The court ruled that candidate owed Chicago money because she underpaid her taxes by having multiple homestead exemptions.

The issue with Stearns was not brought up during the election, however. On April 29, Stearns paid the city's portion of underpaid taxes (about $1,500) after she was contacted by Greenburg.

Greenburg previously told the council he believes that Stearns' payment solved the problem and that she should be seated.

He said Zimmermann will decide whether there are facts or law justifying a City Council hearing on the issue. If there are, the council will have a hearing and Stearns will be able to present evidence.

If Zimmermann finds no facts or law justifying a hearing, Stearns can be officially seated on the council.

In the meantime, Stearns will continue to serve the city under her 2007 oath.

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