Clark County

Elected Trustees vote themselves 50% Pay Raise – Clark-Edgar Rural Water District –

OLIVER, IL. (ECWd) –

In a stunning move during their May 2018 meeting, the majority of the Clark-Edgar Rural Water District Board of Trustees voted to increase their compensation by 50% – effective in June of 2018 (next month).

The lone-wolf voting “no” was Lisa Thomas, from Clark County.

We had previously questioned whether an elected trustee of a water district could receive any compensation at all, since all references to compensating trustees referred to “appointed” trustees, not “elected” trustees. We believe that if the legislature had wanted elected trustees to be compensated, it would have included them in the statute governing water districts, and would have given them permission to be compensated. Their attorney disregarded “Dillon’s Rule” and basically told them they can get paid.

Section 4 of the Public Water District Act states:

For terms commencing before the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 96th General Assembly, the trustees appointed under this Act shall be paid a sum of not to exceed $600 per annum for their respective duties as trustees, except that trustees of a district with an annual operating budget of $1,000,000 or more may be paid a sum not to exceed $1,000 per annum. For terms commencing on or after the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 96th General Assembly, the trustees shall be paid a sum of not to exceed $1,200 per annum. However, trustees appointed under this Act for any public water district which acquires by purchase or condemnation, or constructs, and maintains and operates sewerage properties in combination with its waterworks properties, under the provisions of Section 23a of this Act, shall be paid a sum of not to exceed $2,000 per annum for their respective duties as trustees. Compensation in either case shall be determined by resolution of the respective boards of trustees, to be adopted annually at their first meeting in May.

Do you see any compensation mentioned for trustees elected under this act? We don’t either. This Section 4 talks only about “appointed” trustees. Additionally, the only time given for setting compensation falls under this section for appointed trustees. No such authorization is granted under any other section of this Act.

Section 4.2 discusses “Elected” trustees and the process to convert the district from appointed to elected trustees. This section does not mention compensation for anyone.

There are two key elements of local governments you must comply with:

  1. “Dillon’s Rule” – which in its most basic form, states that a local government only has the powers granted it by the legislature. In this case, the legislature granted “appointed” trustees the ability to receive limited compensation under Section 4. The legislature did not grant elected trustees the ability to receive any compensation.
  2. For the sake of argument, even IF the legislature had granted permission for elected trustees to receive compensation (which it did not grant), such compensation would have had to be set at least 180 days prior to the beginning of the terms of the officers whose compensation is to be fixed, and would only apply to those new terms of office.

The Local Government Compensation Act applies to all elected compensated officials of local governments, for those the legislature has granted permission to receive compensation. There are several local governments whose elected officials are not permitted to receive compensation, including, water districts, school districts, and park districts just to name a few.

When compensations are permitted, Section 2 describes that “notwithstanding any other law to the contrary” compensation shall be fixed at least 180 days prior to their term of office. This Act even applies to Home Rule units of local government.

Article VII, Section 9 of the Illinois Constitution prohibits increasing or decreasing the salary of an elected officer of any unit of local government during the term of office for which that officer is elected. This prohibits elected officials from voting to increase their pay after they become elected and also prohibits those same elected officials from decreasing the pay of an elected official they may disagree with after an election.

Our takeaway?

  • elected water district trustees cannot be compensated
  • elected officials, no matter which unit of local government, cannot increase or decrease their pay during their term of office
  • they need to be sued into submission to the law

And nevermind the fact they gave themselves a raise while hundreds of people have paid their deposit for water and 25 years later they still don’t have water!

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8 replies »

  1. Doesn’t someone have oversight of this group – or can they just do what they please – What much were they being paid, now being paid?

  2. I always thought people chose to “serve” because they felt a desire to serve. Voting themselves a 50% raise seems to me – without knowing any of the related circumstances – unconscionable.

  3. Are they giving themselves a raise to try to cover the fact that their water is the most expensive around? They need the raise so that their bottom line for the water district doesnt show more profit than last year.

    • If they’re making a profit, they need to do one of three things: Reduce costs for water/services, put the overage back into the budget and use it for improvements…or return it to the customers, even if it works out equitably for every customer to receive a check for $2. One of the best-run water districts is Jasper in Edwards County. They keep costs extremely low but used to (about 2001-02) at the end of the year, when they have their FY-ending meeting, they ask for the customers to show up, and in the event of an overage, the customers vote on whether they want a refund or an upgrade. By doing it that way (and I believe that’s proscribed by law if I’m remembering correctly), Jasper has become a leader in the area, but they’re not getting too big, so that American Waterworks or some outfit like that doesn’t come along and offer to buy them…which is great as that should be avoided at all costs.

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