By SAMANTHA PIDDE
An “Agreed Order” was signed last week by Judge Val Gunnarsson on a settlement for the William J. Davis Trust.
During a hearing held Tuesday, Dec. 1, a Petition to approve Settlement of Complaint for Declaratory Judgment filed by Mount Carroll City Attorney Trent Bush (of Ward, Murray, Pace & Johnson, P.C.) came in front of Gunnarsson. According to the Agreed Order, filed Dec. 2, with the circuit clerk, those represented at the hearing included:
•Davis Trust trustees Sheldon Frank, Robert Watson and Mary Ann Hutchinson, by Attorney Edward J. Mitchell.
•City of Mount Carroll, by Bush.
•The Illinois Masonic Home, by Attorney William J. Warmoth.
•The Illinois Mason Children's Home, by Warmoth.
•The Shimer Great Books School at North Central College, by Attorney Jennifer L. Friedland.
•People of Illinois; Kwame Raoul, Attorney General of the State of Illinois, by Assistant Attorney General Kristin C. Louis.
•People of Carroll County, by State's Attorney Scott Brinkmeier.
The Mount Carroll City Council approved the settlement (presented at the hearing) regarding the amount to be given to North Central College, during a Nov. 30 special meeting. Bush indicated the proposed settlement could see the city receiving as much as an extra $1.87 million.
Davis died April 26, 1967, with his will establishing a trust with several organizations as beneficiaries. The trust was made in such a way that three of his relatives - first cousins Clarence Davis, Herbert Davis and Helen Grace Davis Marth - received annual payments while designated beneficiaries would not receive funds until all three of the individuals had died. The last of these three individuals, Herbert Davis, died in September 2019, at the age of 98. The Davis Trust is currently valued around $22 million.
Trust documents list six beneficiaries to receive certain percentages of the whole trust: City of Mount Carroll, 50 percent; Shimer College in Mount Carroll, 30 percent; Illinois Masonic Home in Sullivan, 7 percent; Illinois Masonic Children's Home in LaGrange, 6 percent; Mount Carroll Fire Protection District, 5 percent; Mount Carroll Masonic Cyrus Lodge #118, 2 percent.
Contention has existed for some time, regarding the 30 percent portion for Shimer College. The trust specifically lists the beneficiary as "Shimer College, a non-profit educational corporation, having its campus and principal buildings in the City of Mt. Carroll, Illinois."
While Shimer College is no longer operating on the Mount Carroll campus, North Central College in Naperville has taken assumed the Shimer College Great Books program and name. Earlier this year, the college's attorney, Friedland, filed documentation with the courts formally laying claim to the Shimer College portion of the Trust.
Since then, negotiations have been held concerning the issue. In early November, the City Council heard from Bush that a settlement had been tentatively reached. During the special meeting, held Nov. 30, Bush told the council that "by virtue of this settlement, we'll put this matter to bed."
According to the settlement, North Central College has agreed to accept 18.25 percent of the Trust amount, instead of the 30 percent allotted for Shimer College. The remaining 11.75 percent will be distributed among the other beneficiaries at the same percentage as laid out in the trust documents. On Nov. 30, Bush stated that based on figures from the end of October, this 11.75 percent equals and extra $2.5 million to the "pot" for the other beneficiaries, estimating the city would receive an additional $1.87 million, for a total amount of approximately $12.71 million.
"I think this is a fair settlement for all parties," said Mount Carroll Mayor Carl Bates, during the meeting on Nov. 30.
Bush recited the parties' agreement during the Dec. 1, hearing, with Judge Gunnarsson recognizing the right of the parties to settle their differences. His role on the settlement was to confirm that all "interested parties" agree. Gunnarsson would not sign an order in which he stated "approval" of the terms, instead taking a roll of all of the parties represented and finding they all understood the terms and that they all agreed to the settlement. The order for the Agreed Judgement was signed by Gunnarsson and filed with the Circuit Clerk's office, dated Dec. 2.
The next court date was set for 1:15 p.m. on Jan. 14, 2021, for the assignment of a new judge. This is due to Judge Gunnarsson's retirement. Judge Jerry Kane, who was recently elected to Gunnarsson's seat, cannot handle this case as in the past he served as attorney for the Davis Trust. Gunnarsson has said there should be no substantial issues remaining.