PARIS, IL. (ECWd) –
Rides Mass Transit District (“RIDES-MTD“)filed its amended complaint a couple of weeks ago in their lawsuit alleging Edgar County owes them over $152,000 – which was the remaining funds after all debts were paid from the allegedly dissolved East Central Illinois mass Transit District (“ECIMTD”).
In their amended complaint, RIDES-MTD relies on the “Downstate Public Transportation Act” [30 ILCS 740] for the county’s authority to gift its public funds to RIDES-MTD.
Our Short Version Opinion:
- RIDES-MTD claims they spent over $635,000 purchasing a building in Paris – failing to mention the State of Illinois gave them the grant for that purchase
- The Downstate Public Transportation Act is only meant for the State to provide funds for downstate mass transportation
- A county can only spend money FROM other public bodies – not provide funds TO them under the paragraph cited
- An illegal contract (a county has no authority to give funds to any mass transit) cannot be breached
- Any written agreement must be to assist the COUNTY in providing mass transportation services – not for a stand-alone Mass Transit District to provide its own services
Longer Version below:
We will start by looking at the purpose of the DPTA as stated in its opening Section, which only concerns State funds – not local funds:
The General Assembly finds:
(c) that State financial assistance for the
development of efficient and coordinated mass transportation systems is essential to the solution of these urban problems.
The purposes of this Act are: (b) to provide assistance to participants in
financing such systems as provided in Section 7 of Article XIII of the Constitution.
We read this to mean what the Legislature wrote in the DPTA, which is that “STATE” financial assistance is needed and would be provided according to Article XIII Section 7 of the Illinois Constitution of 1970.
ARTICLE XIII. SECTION 7.
Public transportation is an essential public purpose for
which public funds may be expended. The General Assembly by
law may provide for, aid, and assist public transportation,
including the granting of public funds or credit to any
corporation or public authority authorized to provide public
transportation within the State.
We read this to mean that the General Assembly will provide for public funds and credit to corporations or public authorities to provide public transportation.
So, State financial assistance is needed and will be provided according to the constitution – meaning the State will provide the funds.
Next, RIDES-MTD looks towards Section 2-17(b) of the DPTA and relies on it for the county’s authority to give those funds to RIDES-MTD.
However, that particular Section only states that a county can apply for, accept, and expend grants, loans, and other funds FROM particular public entities – notice it never says a county can provide funds TO another public body.
(b) Any county may apply for, accept and expend grants, loans or other funds from the State of Illinois or any department or agency thereof, from any unit of local government, from the federal government or any department or agency thereof, or from any other person or entity, for use in connection with any public transportation provided pursuant to this Section.
Where does it say a county can award grants, loans, or any other public funds TO another public body?
It is a little more complicated when the entirety of Section 2-17 is taken as a whole, first is the title of the Section lacks any reference to giving any funds to another public body – it only grants a county the authority to provide for public transportation and to apply for grants:
County authorization to provide public transportation and to apply for grants in connection therewith.
It goes on to give a county the authority to “enter into an agreement” with public entities such as RIDES-MTD, but only under certain conditions (all three of these mandated conditions are missing in this RIDES-MTD v. Edgar County situation).
- that an agreement be entered into to assist the county in providing public transportation services (no agreement exists)
- that once the agreement is executed, the “operator” shall file 3 certified copies with the Illinois Commerce Commission (did not happen)
- that the Illinois Commerce Commission enter an order directing the “operator” to comply with Sections 55a and 55b of the Public Utilities Act (did not happen)
(a) Any county or counties may, by ordinance, operate or otherwise provide for public transportation within such county or counties. In order to so provide for such public transportation, any county or counties may enter into agreements with any individual, corporation or other person or private or public entity to operate or otherwise assist in the provision of such public transportation services. Upon the execution of an agreement for the operation of such public transportation, the operator shall file 3 copies of such agreement certified by the clerk of the county executing the same with the Illinois Commerce Commission. Thereafter the Illinois Commerce Commission shall enter an order directing compliance by the operator with the provisions of Sections 55a and 55b of “An Act concerning public utilities”, approved June 28, 1921, as amended.
Finally, RIDES-MTD claims they spent $635,000 in purchasing a building in Paris – while at the same time failing to acknowledge the State provided most, if not all, of those funds thru a Grant that was initially granted to ECIMTD, but placed on hold while they attempted to dissolve, and then transferred the grant to RIDES-MTD
This Count complains of breach of unilateral contract.
- cannot have a contract in violation of county’s authority to enter into
- cannot give county public funds to RIDES-MTD
- County does not have the authority to give these funds to RIDES-MTD