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April 21, 2024

DuPage Public Guardian / County Board Member Seeks AG Opinion –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On October 10, 2016

DuPage CO., IL. (ECWd) –

DuPage County Board Member and DuPage County Public Guardian, Donald Puchalski, has asked the Illinois Attorney General for an opinion on whether or not he is prohibited from holding both offices. The letter is below.

In the letter, he points to the Public Officers Prohibited Activities Act (POPAA), which is the correct law to use. However, he also points to the original “act to prevent corrupt practices”, which ostensibly stated that county board members were prohibited from using their office to obtain additional public offices appointed by the county board – this act is no longer valid.

It appears Puchalski is trying to apply the words from the previous “Corrupt Practices Act” (“CPA”) to his holding of two public offices under the “Public Officers Prohibited Activities Act” (“POPAA”) – wanting us to forget the legislature enacted POPAA to replace the CPA, rendering the CPA invalid.

Puchalski states that since the previous law did not prohibit his dual public offices, then the new law shouldn’t either (disregard what the actual law says, twist it to your own liking). We believe he is mistaken and chooses to ignore Dillon’s Rule, which in its elementary form means that he must look for an enabling statute – a law that allows it – not for a law that prevents it.

In this case, the POPAA is the enabling statute, and it specifically prohibits a county board member from holding any office other than the chairman of the county board or member of a regional planning commission by appointment or election of the board of which he or she is a member. Section 1. This Section applies to appointments by the county board.

The key language on these prohibitions in Section 1 of the POPAA is: “Unless he or she first resigns from office of county board member or unless the holding of another office is authorized by law” – that sounds like the legislature pointing to Dillon’s Rule. The holding of public guardian / public administrator by a county board member is not “authorized by law” in any law we have been able to find.

Other Sections specifically “authorize by law” a member of a county board to serve in different capacities, such as, township highway commissioner under certain circumstances (Section 1.1), and certain education offices (Section 1.2) – neither are by appointment of the county board, which clearly shows the legislative intent of the act.

So, we have the prohibitions and the enabling sections all within the Public Officers Prohibited Activities Act. There are also certain Attorney General Opinions on other simultaneous service, and the Public Officer Simultaneous Tenure Act which is the enabling act to “authorize by law” county board members to also serve as township supervisor and township trustee in certain counties based on population (clearly not an appointment by the county board).

Additionally, legislation specific to a public body may also “authorize by law” county board members to be members of other public bodies, such as the Emergency Telephone System Act (“ETSB”), Section 15.4(a), which authorizes county board member(s) to serve on the ETS Board.

Section 5/13-1, 5/13-1.2, and 5/13-3.1 [of the Probate Act] talk about the public guardian / public administrator, but fail to enable what is already prohibited in the POPAA. See ETSB, above, for specific enabling language.

We can only wonder why he is unable to understand the law that is so clear, even to Southern Illinois Hayseeds.

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  • D. Ross
    Posted at 09:04h, 11 October

    Note the date that Puchalski wrote this letter – one day AFTER Edgar County Watchdogs published the first story on him.

    Shouldn’t he have sought the opinion prior to accepting the appointments?

    If he knew it was okay to be on the county board while serving in these other positions, he wouldn’t have kept his appointments low profile.

  • Rich
    Posted at 10:33h, 11 October

    Let me get this straight… After Donald learns that there is a review by the Executive Inspector General’s office on this issue, he rushes to seek an opinion by Lisa Madigan?

    Does he still have friends at Madigan’s office after working there all those years?

    The reason Donald didn’t step down from the County Board was his pension!

  • D. Ross
    Posted at 09:39h, 15 October

    The Attorney General has already concluded in 2012 that a county board member cannot hold another public office simultaneously.

    “…as a matter of law, the acceptance of a second, incompatible office by the incumbent of another office constitutes an ipso facto resignation of the first office.”

    In other words, Puchalski was required to step down as a county board member upon accepting the appointment as public guardian.

    There are two distinctions with the Winnebago issue and this one. First, Puchalski’s request for an opinion comes more than FOUR YEARS after he accepted the appointment. He’s only seeking the opinion now?

    AND, the a college board trustee is an elected and very visible position. Puchalski’s appointment was kept very quiet and never promoted by him or the county. If it was not considered a problem, why didn’t he boast publicly about it?

  • Rich
    Posted at 22:20h, 15 October