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May 20, 2024

Vermilion County Board violates law, gives real estate away –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On June 11, 2014

During the June 10, 0214 Vermilion County Board Meeting, the board voted 15 – 8 in favor of violating the law, declaring a parcel of real estate as surplus, and GIVING it FREE of charge, to the purchaser of the adjacent farm ground.
This property is also located adjacent to the Vermilion County Animal Shelter and across 5th Street from the former Vermilion County nursing home.
I searched for other Counties and their real property sales ordinances and came across the well written Lake County Ordinance (here). In their document, they referenced a 1974 Attorney General Opinion that dealt with this exact subject (HERE).
Here is the Danville Commercial News’ article on this subject (here) – Now for the rest of this story:

The Vermilion County Real Estate

Vermilion County recently tried to sell farm land at auction. That did not bring the minimum price set by the county board. A potential purchaser later stepped up and offered $10,000 per acre, bringing the total purchase price for the farm land at $1,139,470.00 for the 113 or so acres.
This offer was not contingent on the additional 3 or 4 acres adjacent to the farm land, but the purchaser expressed interest in having that property also. So the county board, with the blessing of its exemplary legal counsel, voted to give the additional property to him for no cost.
I spoke at that meeting, along with a couple other people, and asked them why it was never put out for the general public to bid on the property. No answer was forthcoming.

The Law Relating to County Owned Real Estate

Illinois Counties Code, 55 ILCS 5/5-1005:

Sec. 5-1005. Powers. Each county shall have power:
        2. To sell and convey or lease any real or personal
estate owned by the county.
        3. To make all contracts and do all other acts in
relation to the property and concerns of the county necessary to the exercise of its corporate powers.

Notice it does not say “give away” or “donate”?

The AG Opinion

 In 1974, Illinois Attorney General William J. Scott wrote an Opinion on the Sale and/or/lease or county owned real estate in answering a request from Peoria County State’s Attorney.
Here are some of the key points in that opinion:
– Generally speaking non home rule counties have only those powers granted to them by law (Article VII, Section7, Illinois Constitution), plus those powers implied as necessary to carry out specific statutory powers.
– Quoted  Sec. 5-1005 of the counties code (above) Counties have the power: To sell and convey or lease any real or personal estate owned by the county.
– Counties hold property in trust for the benefit of the inhabitants of the county, and further quoted Sherlock v. Village of Winnetka in that they are bound to administer property faithfully, honestly and justly, and if it is guilty of a breach of trust by disposing of its valuable property for little or no consideration, it is regarded as acting on behalf of an individual. Using forms of legislation in committing such breach of trust does not make any difference in the act. It will not be considered an exercise of political power for public purposes, and the privilege of exemption from judicial interference terminates where legislative action ends.
– Quote the Illinois Supreme Court, who enjoined Cook County the execution of a deed. “…it must be sold for the most that it can bring in market“.
– Renting for less than market value equated to a gift of the market value of the rental price and the county does not have the power to make gifts or donations.

 Vermilion County

Vermilion County gave away 3-4 acres of property located close to a school, nursing home, shopping, open farm land, and paved roads.
They did this knowing full well that other people were interested in purchasing the property in question and that the purchase offer on the farm land was in no way contingent upon also having this piece of real estate.
They were not looking out for the best interest of the residents of Vermilion County, and their attorney should have known better than to sanction this gift of public property.
I am inclined to further add that they violated the Illinois Constitution, Article VIII Section 1 (a), which states:

(a)  Public funds, property or credit shall be used only for public purposes.

There is no public purpose in what was voted on tonight.

The Property Pictures

 The 1974 AG Opinion:

[gview file=”” save=”1″]


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  • Bidder
    Posted at 13:30h, 11 June

    I would like to have a chance to have bid on that property. I would bet Ribbie will end up with the ground in a crooked deal with Gary Weinard. Any takers?

  • E.J. McDemmick
    Posted at 23:09h, 11 June

    More crooked behavior by a county board? Ha…that’s like saying there’s more chewing gum on a sidewalk in Danville! It’s a given in Illinois. Only difference here is that you guys are reporting the truth on it and calling it into question. Thanks to you watchdogs we know about it for once. And thank you both.