Cook County

Maine Township Supervisor Laura J. Morask hired friend outside statutory provisions

Cook Co. (ECWd) –

The Daily Herald reported that the Maine Township Supervisor hired a political ally for a new $30,000 part-time position without conducting a job search.  Now on the surface, the average reader would see just another article pointing out political patronage, a common practice in Illinois.

We saw something quite different!

“Morask said the job did not need to be advertised or approved by trustees because the position is in the general assistance department, which falls under the purview of the township supervisor. Jobs in other departments would require approval by the board, she said.”

Once again, we can only wonder when people will read the law and apply it, especially considering the person making the above statement was the Township Supervisor and an attorney. This same attorney was reprimanded and admonished by the ARDC not to repeat the misconduct outlined in the Report and Recommendation, which you can find by typing in her last name in the search box at this link.  You will find two ARDC cases against her, of which one resulted in a suspension of practicing law and the other a reprimand.

This same person now claims she has authority to hire a person to work the food pantry without board approval because the position is in the General Assistance Department.

We take several issues with this claim.

General Assistance is a defined term under the law and is to be administered under the Public Aid act, specifically Article VI, XI, and XII.  That direction comes from the Township code, which states:

(60 ILCS 1/70-50)
Sec. 70-50. Supervisor of general assistance. The township supervisor shall be ex officio supervisor of general assistance in the township and shall administer the general assistance program in the township as provided in Articles VI, XI, and XII of the Illinois Public Aid Code. (Source: P.A. 88-62.)

The Public Aid act is where the Supervisor is given the power to appoint such other employees as may be necessary to provide public aid under Article VI.

(305 ILCS 5/12-21.2) Sec. 12-21.2. Supervisors of general assistance in counties under township organization – Other staffing. In counties under township organization, the supervisors of the respective towns therein shall be ex officio Supervisors of General Assistance of their towns. The Supervisor of General Assistance shall appoint such other employees as may be necessary to provide public aid under Article VI and prescribe their compensation and duties.
(Source: P.A. 81-1085.)

So the question becomes, is the operation of a Food Pantry considered General Assistance?

That answer is no.

General Assistance as defined in the Public Aid act is Financial assistance.  There is no power given by the statute to take General Assistance funds and use them for other Township provided services, such as a food pantry.

Although the Supervisor could hire her political ally to work in the General Assistance department and do so without board approval, that would mean her duties must be in the Administration of General Assistance, not the operation of the Food Pantry as she described to the Daily Herald.

Many equate a Food Pantry as General Assistance.  The co-mingling of social terms with legal terms is where people get in trouble.  The operation of a Food Pantry would fall under the Township Services statute.  Employment for township services is under the control of the Board, not the Supervisor.

(60 ILCS 1/85-13) Township services, generally -(1) (G) Social services for the poor and aged. (“Food Pantry”)

(60 ILCS 1/100-5) Township attorney and other employees; compensation.
(a) The township board may employ and fix the compensation of township employees that the board deems necessary, excluding the employees of the offices of supervisor of general assistance, township collector, and township assessor. The township board shall fix the compensation of a township attorney appointed by the township supervisor under Section 70-37. The township attorney shall not be considered a township employee for purposes of the first sentence of this subsection.
(b) The board shall set and adopt rules concerning all benefits available to employees of the board if the board employs 5 or more employees.

In our opinion, the hiring of the person to work in the Food Pantry without board approval is a violation of the law.  As would be any termination of employees in the Food Pantry without board approval. If the three part time positions that she terminated were working in the Food Pantry, then she may have placed the township in a bigger mess as it relates to possible illegal termination of employment.

If those three part time employees were working in the Food Pantry and getting their benefits paid from General Assistance, then there is an even bigger problem as use of General Assistance outside the authorized provisions may well constitute Administrative Malfeasance under the Public Aid Act.

(305 ILCS 5/8A-5) Administrative Malfeasance. (a) Any person who shall misappropriate, misuse or unlawfully withhold or convert to his own use or to the use of another, any public funds made available for public aid purposes under this Code is guilty of a violation of this Article and shall be punished as provided in Section 8A-6.

A member of the public may file a formal complaint about Administrative Malfeasance at this link.

We suspect, based on the most recent audit, the General Assistance spending has some real problems.  When you spend $678,583.00 in Administration costs to administer $196,101.00, there is a problem.  This equates to a taxpayer cost of $3.46 cents for every dollar in public aid given to those who need it.  That is out of control in our opinion.

Based on the law and the events reported, it is our firm belief and opinion that the Maine Township Supervisor overstepped her authority and hired her friend in violation of the Township Code.  A food pantry is a Township Service and not to be funded with General Assistance.

Township Trustee McKenzie suggested the policy on hiring should be changed.  We suggest the best policy is to read and follow the law, which in this case appears to have been ignored by Supervisor Laura Morask.

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