A small airport in Greenwood, Ill., that’s played host to a few concerts has become the site for a showdown between its owner, Michael Stanard, and the McHenry County Sheriff.
Stanard recently filed federal suit against Keith Nygren, claiming the sheriff forced him to hire his off-duty deputies at premium costs for security at events at the Galt Airport, rather than private security professionals who were available to work for lesser rates, according to court documents obtained by the Chicago Tribune.
"It’s just unfair," Stanard told the paper. "I just want him to leave me alone. It really comes down to freedom of assembly. I don’t want the sheriff to make me hire his deputies at the price he dictates and in the number he dictates."
The 28-count lawsuit reportedly names Nygren and about 20 sheriff’s employees, and seeks more than $75,000 in damages.
In a specific incident regarding a 2005 Hurricane Katrina benefit concert, the suit claims Nygren "foisted his deputies on plaintiffs and the event organizers and displaced said private security by arbitrarily and capriciously specifying the number of his off-duty deputies to replace them."
However, with inclement weather day of show, the benefit only managed to draw 200 people, and the suit alleges the payment to Nygren’s deputies drained any money the organizers had raised for the Katrina victims.
"There’s no merit whatsoever," Nygren told the Tribune. "It’s the most venomous, ridiculous thing I’ve ever read. It’s a shame we have to go to court on this, but we will, and we will prevail."
He said it was common practice for concert promoters to hire off-duty deputies at a rate of $40 per hour because the deputies have police powers that a private security team would lack, but denied coercing Stanard to use his deputies for the concerts, the paper reported.
"I’m not against him making money or having fun," Nygren said. "But he’s painting a picture that isn’t true. No one ever told him he had to hire deputies."
But with a July 21st Hard Landing concert featuring Canned Heat, Iron Butterfly and The Hudson McCoy Band on the books, Stanard wasn’t taking any chances.
Stanard applied for a temporary restraining order against Nygren and his deputies July 18th, claiming Nygren had threatened to shut down the roads leading to the airport if he didn’t comply with sheriff’s orders, the Northwest Herald reported. That order was denied by a federal judge.
Nygren reportedly said he had no specific plans to patrol the area unless there were problems.
"He will be able to close down the roads if there is a safety matter," McHenry County State’s Attorney Louis Bianchi told the Herald. "The judge didn’t find that there was a good reason to order a state constitutional officer to do or not do something."
Upcoming concerts at the airport include Vince Neil and Slaughter.