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June 25, 2024

DuPage County: Letter On Compensation of Elected Officials (Part 1) –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On July 7, 2016

DuPage Co. (ECWd) –

After attending a couple DuPage County Board Meetings and voicing our opinions on the full compensation received by their elected officials, and the fact is, it had never been placed in an Ordinance setting their compensation (until last month), the DuPage County State’s Attorney has weighed in on the subject with a letter addressed to Chairman Cronin.

Below is our opinion on this letter, paragraph by paragraph:

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We agree that all of the resolutions noted were properly adopted and that #16 correctly “reflects historical county board policy.” However, as stated during board meetings and past articles, we believe those currently receiving compensation in excess of the previously passed ordinances establishing their compensation are doing so in violation of law, since they are in receipt of compensation which was never placed into a compensation setting ordinance. “The way we’ve always done it” it not a legal defense nor an authorization to keep doing it that way.

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We agree that the Counties Code does exactly as described in this paragraph – including: “requires the county board to set the compensation of county officers” at “a meeting of such board held before the regular election of the officers whose compensation is to be fixed.”

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We disagree that the Local Government Officer Compensation Act  (LGOC) supersedes the “meeting before the election” rule as to the form of setting compensation, but, rather superseded and clarified the “prior to election” part by placing a mandatory limit of “at least 180 days before they begin their term” rule in place.

Section 2 of the LGOCA clearly intended to only clarify the “Time of Fixing Compensation” (as the Section title reads) and not the “Method of Fixing Compensation.”

The remainder of this paragraph we agree with.

Next, on Pages 3 and 4, under the heading “Compensation Under Illinois Law” (read document – too large for a snippet)

There was considerable discussion of Harlan v. Sweet from when the Legislature authorized a stipend for county assessors, but it took affect a couple days after their terms of office started, and thru that had to wait four years for the stipend to be paid because of prohibitions on increases of salary during their terms of office.

Our reading and opinion of Harlan tells us the definitions of salary and compensation are the same, and that compensation includes all things paid, or provided, to county officers. this includes things such as IMRF payments, Health Insurance, Vehicle Allowances, Dental, Vision, Life Insurance, Opt-Out Payments, etc – all should be, and are, considered compensation.

This section gives a good, although in our opinion flawed, interpretation of Harlan and defining the words compensation and salary.

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This paragraph gives us concern that no attention was paid to punctuation used along with words. “Compensation, benefits, or remuneration” with each word synonymous with the other and also synonymous with “salary” (according to the Harlan definition).

Punctuation has meaning, and the use of commas and the word “or” would imply that the legislature intended those three words as synonyms and not as a phrase – otherwise the law would have read “Compensation, benefits, and remuneration” and would have implied that each word held a different meaning

Using the word “or” instead of “and” reflects the legislative intent of their choice of words to the definition we put forth above as being synonymous, especially when the paragraph includes examples of the definition in the law.

Using the DuPage County definition is how certain local park districts provide for free lifetime gym, aquatic, and golf for park commissioners and their families, when the law clearly states they work without compensation. This is a problem statewide, and not necessarily exclusive to park districts. Libraries and school district are equally wrong and these forms of compensation given to elected officials when the laws governing them expressly prohibit receipt of compensation. Any other definition would defeat the statute’s purpose “or yield absurd or unjust results.”

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We agree except instead of “address five key concepts” it should read “address five elements of compensation.”

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We agree, and also would like to point out the State’s Attorney’s use of “compensation or benefits” instead of “compensation and benefits.” We agree these new resolutions are correct in the manner contemplated by law – but only for those taking office in December of 2016.

That’s all for Part 1. Part 2 will discuss the other compensation being received and Part 3 will discuss the State’s Attorney’s Compensation.
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