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Shelbyville Township – $93,034.33 in donations and climbing – Legal?

Shelby Co. (ECWd)-

Donations – Public Funds for Private Purpose? 

We ask that the Township Officials of Shelbyville Township cease any further improper donations and comply with the law moving forward.  We know they know how to comply with certain portions of the law, specifically the Freedom of Information Act, as they have provided everything we have asked for and done so in compliance with the law. We thank them for that.

We ran our first article on donations by the Shelbyville Township in January, which can be read at this link. Since that article, we have obtained Financials from 2012 to current date.  In the 2012-2013 fiscal year, $13,234.33 was donated to local groups with $2,500.00 of that coming out of the Road & Bridge Fund. In 2013-2014 fiscal year, $19,000.00 was given away with a single $1,000.00 payment to an individual. The 2014-2015 report reflects yet another increase to $26,500.00 Last year’s total is $34,300.00 with $5,000.00 being taken out of the Road fund for donations. That brings a four-year total to $93,034.33 of taxpayer money that was donated without any predetermined selection process or qualification criteria being applied, not to mention in violation of the law as outlined below. Is giving away $93,034.33 to groups of their choosing an indicator you’re being taxed too much?

State Constitution

The township has taken the position they can donate your tax dollars as they see fit and do so under a specific citation of the law.   We obtained the entire legislative history around the section of the statute they are claiming gives them the power to give your money away to whomever they want.  We also went clear back to the Illinois State Constitutional Convention to identify first what the intent of Article VIII Section 1, really was.

“The report of the committee on Revenue and Finance of the constitutional convention, upon submitting its proposal to the convention, explained the language that is now article VIII, section 1(a), as follows:”

“The first sentence limits the use of public funds, property, and credit to a public purpose.  It permits the state and its political subdivisions to enter into financial arrangements with governmental or non-governmental organizations whenever a public purpose will be served thereby.”

It is undisputed that the Township has not entered into any financial arrangements with governmental or non-governmental organizations pertaining to giving away public money, a specific direction laid out in the original intent of the Constitutional section in question as it relates to the spending of public funds.

The Law

60 ICLS 1/235-5  The township board may raise money, by taxation not exceeding the rates established in Section 235-10, for the following purposes:
(6) Providing services in cooperation with another governmental entity, not-for-profit corporation, or nonprofit community service association under Section 85-13”

Is there anyone that does not understand the language Providing Services in cooperation with”?  It specifically outlines tax money can be used for “Proving Services in cooperation with another governmental entity, not-for-profit corporation, or nonprofit community service association.  It is almost the exact language used for the intent of spending public money outlined at the Constitutional Convention.   This law goes a step further and points to section 85-13 , which lists the very services the township can provide directly or in cooperation with those entities listed.

60-ILCS 1/85-13  The township board may either expend funds directly or may enter into any cooperative agreement or contract with any other governmental entity, not-for-profit corporation, non-profit community service association, or any for-profit business entity as provided in subsection (b) with respect to the expenditure of township funds, or funds made available to the township under the federal State and Local Fiscal Assistance Act of 1972, to provide any of the following services to the residents of the township: 

Simply put, The township board may expend funds directly to provide any of the following services to the residents of the township (See the statute for a list of those services).

The power to spend was given in order to provide services listed in the statute.  The Township has taken the position that donations to groups like the post prom, wrestling, volleyball, baseball, etc., is allowed as long as they do it directly with them. That is not consistent with the constitutional intent nor legislative intent, nor Attorney General Opinion.

For starters, a key qualifier in section 85-13 is this statement as it applies to spending.  It can only be used for “(1) Ordinary and necessary maintenance and operating expenses for the following”, then lists several services the township can provide, directly or through other entities.

Is the Township Board of the opinion the donations they are making meet the criteria of being ordinary “and”  necessary maintenance and operating expenses?

How is Post Prom a service that is ordinary and necessary maintenance and operating expense?  The same question applies to every other donation they have doled out to groups of their choosing.  We understand how giving public money away to groups of their choosing may make them feel good but that is not how the law works.

If you’re still are not convinced the donations are outside the statutory authority, we urge you to not take our word for it but take the word of the former Illinois Attorney General.

Attorney General Opinion

The General Assembly floor debates on section 85-13 of the town code identified abuse of these funds, much like we have exposed, and the Attorney General Opinion on the matter brought clarity to the issue. According to the historical record on this section of the statute, debated by the 78th General Assembly, it was never meant to be a way to just give money away to any group you want to, as is being done by Shelbyville Township currently.

“That this act authorizes townships to undertake the authorized programs only in cooperation with other governmental entities, not-for-profit corporations and non-profit community service organizations.” (As cited by Attorney General William Scott’s written opinion on spending of funds under section 85-13 of the township code – page 2 & 6 specifically)

As you can see, our State Constitution, State Law, and Attorney General opinion all cite the specific obligations of how township money can be spent.  Although we concur a few of the donations are within the scope of the law, (local museum and historical) we contend many of them are not, just as we stated in our first article on donations.

Based on the Constitutional intent on spending public funds, clear language of the law, and the written opinion of the Attorney General when the very statute in question was amended, using taxpayer money for donations to groups that do not meet the criteria outlined points to a violation of section 85-13 of the Township code. It is claimed that the Township Officials of Illinois (TOI) have taken the position their donations are legal, it should be noted that TOI refuses to put such an opinion in writing and as we understand it, they have advised the Township should have written agreements with service providers they donate money to, which would be consistent with what the law requires.

All indications are the Township intends to continue to give taxpayer money to groups of their choosing as they have in fact budgeted $50,000.00 for this year’s giveaway.  Any further efforts to keep giving money away is yet another example of why we believe the citizens of Shelbyville Township are paying too much in Township related taxes.

Are you OK with your Township Officials giving away almost $100K  or would you rather see some of your money stay in your pocket? 

The next Township Meeting is scheduled for March 6th, 2017 at 7 pm and Donations are on the agenda!

 

 

 

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3 replies »

  1. Who was the attorney who wrote the legal opinion that asserts these donations are proper expenditures? Here is some news – they are not.
    The law is very clear on this matter and it not legal to give away taxpayer money as a donation to anyone. I’m sure a good state’s attorney could sink their teeth and remedy this matter quickly.
    Watch dogs, keep up the good work.

  2. The memo of Ms. Nohren, township attorney, conflates and dissembles the facts and uses the old straw man ploy to justify her opinion (whatever that may be). Unfortunately she never tells us, but instead refers to opinions of others without giving specific names and the briefest of their alleged expert opinions.

    She claims Mr. Allen (the straw man) is not an accountant. As if being an accountant or CPA and state licensed were needed to read and correctly interpret financial documents. Then, she knocks the straw man down by claiming the opinions of others (unnamed), specifically the Comptroller (of the State of Illinois?), an unnamed CPA, unnamed people at the Townships Officials Association and unnamed other township counsel are dispositive and contrary to Mr. Allen’s opinions.

    I really don’t know if Mr. Allen is an accountant or not. I do know he is a CSIH (certified Southern Illinois Hayseed) – with a track record of causing 200 resignations or dismissals of corrupt public officials. Even Abraham Lincoln could not make that claim.

    But then the hypocrisy rears its’ ugly head. At the same time unlicensed Mr. Allen is criticized for
    interpreting financial documents, all the aforementioned (excluding “other counsel” if he/she is a licensed attorney) who do not appear to be attorneys are approved in her memo by Ms. Nohren to give dispositive legal advice.

    If I were a township official and received a bill for this memo, I would propose a motion to find new legal counsel.

  3. Thank you Watchdogs for exposing improper conduct of those individuals and groups violating laws. Outrageous, arrogant use of taxpayer money must be stopped and those found responsible prosecuted. This country deserves honesty and integrity from those seeking to represent citizens interests. Enough is enough!!

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