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April 16, 2024

Whiteside County Airport – Allegations of Open Meetings Violations and Illegal Legal Representation –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On November 29, 2016


Once again, we have a County Board condoning a County Airport’s misuse of public funds, while the County State’s Attorney claims the county airport can hire their own attorney. Why? Because that’s how they’ve always done it.

Reviewing minutes of the September 13, 2016, Whiteside County Airport board meeting, it is clear the airport believes Mr. Dave Murray (an attorney) is the attorney for the airport. They could not be more wrong. Here is why:

  • According to statute, the State’s Attorney is the de facto legal representative of all county agencies, officers, employees, and departments.
  • In any situation where the State’s Attorney cannot be their legal representative, a Court must appoint a Special State’s Attorney.
  • “When the constitution of the laws of the state create an office, prescribe the duties, and set the compensation, no other person or board, except by action of the legislature, has the authority to contract with private individuals to expend public funds for the purpose of performing the duties which were imposed upon such officer  (case law includes: Fergus v. Russel, Stevens v Henry County, Hope v City of Alton).”
  • The Illinois Supreme Court, as it relates to any contract with a private attorney to represent the county, has stated: “Any contract with a private attorney that was not supported by specific enabling legislation would be ultra vires. (Abbot V. County of Adams, 214 Ill. App. 201.) (Click here for AG Opinion with the information) 
  • The airport cannot sue or be sued in their own name – which means a suit against the airport would have to be against the county and would statutorily require the State’s Attorney to defend or prosecute.

Now, according to their minutes, it appears that the Airport was the subject of an Open Meetings Act Request for Review of an alleged OMA violation…and they hired another legal firm to respond to the Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor. Not only do they have Mr. Murray conducting legal work in violation of state statutes and the constitution, they have added another law firm for good measure.

Whatever invoices were submitted and paid to that legal firm must be repaid to the airport (aka the county) as it was public funds expended for the purpose of performing the duties imposed on the Whiteside County State’s Attorney.

In September of 2016 I questioned (thru the emails shown below) the authority of the Whiteside County Airport to hire an attorney, and the Whiteside County State’s Attorney first state she believe they could hire one and would not seek an AG opinion on it, and then later stated that she was the attorney for the County Airport.

Additionally, the Airport Board, thru its “attorney”, started hammering on the person who filed the OMA complaint with the Attorney General’s office, calling it a “lack of appreciation” and “irritating” and “biting the hand that feeds him” and other indications of the Board’s complete unprofessional and unethical conduct towards a person for simply asking the Open Meetings Act be followed.

Finally, some guy named “Mike” told somebody at the meeting that wanted to conduct a fundraiser on county property, “due to state statute requiring money raised at the airport going to the airport board only” made it difficult to operate a fundraiser for Rock Falls Veterans Memorial. I would like to see a copy of this so-called state statute referenced. I don’t believe it exists.

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