Effingham Co. (ECWd)
As the County moved to secure an ambulance service it found itself faced with numerous legal issues, of which, by all indications, they still don't get it. After exposing the County for not following the law as it pertains to the hiring of a private attorney to represent the County on the Ambulance matter, we now find why following the letter of the law is so important.
"The court will allow the defendants until April 21, 2015, to remedy this issue and properly authorize the SA to "employ" one additional assistant state's attorney assuming the SA still concurs with that process."
- Employ: the state or fact of being employed for wages or a salary.
- Employee: a person employed for wages or salary, especially at nonexecutive level.
- Wages: a fixed regular payment, typically paid on a daily or weekly basis, made by an employer to an employee, especially to a manual or unskilled worker.
- Salary: a fixed regular payment, typically paid on a monthly or biweekly basis but often expressed as an annual sum, made by an employer to an employee, especially a professional or white-collar worker.
Effingham County State's Attorney Bryan Kibler failed to set any salary for the Assistant State's Attorney he selected as is required by law. In fact, when we asked for this information, the county asked the insurance provider the following: "Our State’s Attorney, Bryan Kibler, would like to know if a salary was set by CIRMA for Chris Koester’s services on this case and if there is an engagement letter or agreement the County/CIRMA has with Chris Koester for his legal services in this case."
So even though the judge odered the County to follow the law and take steps to have the attorney hired propertly, they failed to set any salary. The argument the county provides is that the insurance company is picking up the tab, so appearently, the letter of the law can be ignored. Who pays the insurance premiums?
Here is what happens when you do as you please instead of following the courts order and employing the attorney and setting his salary as the law outlines.
For starters, the county has not issued a single W2 for the employee they hired as an Assistant State's Attorney. And yes, an Assistant State's Attorney is, in fact, not only an employee but a public figure as well. Has Effingham County violated wage reporting laws? Oh, I digress, they never set his salary as the law outlined and never paid him. If he has no W2 then was it possible he would have been issued a 1099? Nope, didn't get one of those either.
We requested copies of all the billings provided to the insurance company by the attorney representing the county on the Ambulance matter. It should be noted that his duties were to represent the county on the Altamont Ambulance legal matters. The records reflect between December of 2014 and August of 2016, Chris Koester had billed the insurance company $62,092.09 for fees and expenses. Considering there was legal work being performed clear up to last month, we can only assume there is other billing we have not been provided.
Why does it matter that they allowed a private attorney to bill for his services when it was the insurance company picking up the tab? To protect public funds! "
"Ashton v. Cook Cnty., 51 N .E.2d 161, 167 (Ill. 1943) ('(The law is well settled that when the constitution or the laws of the State create an office, prescribe the duties of its incumbent and fix his 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.')"
Looking through the legal bills submitted, one item inparticular jumped out at us.
"Telephone conference with Troy Payne regarding the status of divorce proceedings and contempt issues."
Not understanding what a divorce matter has to do with the County Ambulance legal issues, I reached out to the State's Attorney and cc'd the private attorney that sent the bill and as well as the County Board Chairman.
In the attached billing related to the Ambulance matter is billing for a phone conference pertaining to a divorce. How is a divorce matter the financial responsibility of the County Insurance carrier, and or the taxpayers of Effingham? What does a divorce have to do with the Ambulance legal case?
Anyone hear the church mouse? Yes, silence from all three. Can any of our readers point to a reason a private attorney would bill the insurance company for a divorce matter when they were hired to manage the legal matters of the Ambulance? Why would the insurance company for the county be on the hook for such a bill?
The concept of having an Assistant State's Attorney ties directly back to protecting public funds. Who reviews the invoices to ensure they are in fact tied to the legal matter at hand? Are there billings that the insurance company paid for which would not be such an expense if the Attorney actualy working as an employee as the law outlines?
Does anyone see a problem when an Assistant State's Attorney, who by law is an employee, can bill for conversations with his boss, the State's Attorney? The whole purpose of setting a salary and making them an employee is to protect public funds.
I'm sure the attorney can make a great argument for the billing sent to the insurance company, with maybe the exception of the divorce matter, however one only take a quick review to see the billing for communications with his boss and County Board members is a perfect example of why we have the law we have. To protect public funds!
Too bad Effingham appears to be unable to comprehend the most basic language in the law, not to mention even the judge's order points to this private attorney being under the "employ" of the county.
The reason is simple. Even if he were to have a salary set for the full budgeted amount of $114K, he would have been an employee that works at the pleasure of the State's Atttorney and could have been assigned other work that needed to be done. As it stands, 254.80 hours were billed to the insurance company, which equates to 6.37 weeks of service based on a 40hr work week. Had this attorney been operating as an employee as the judge and law outlines, I think most would agree to set his salary and treating him as an employee would have saved the taxpayers a small fortune as more work could have been done than 6.37 weeks of service.
You can review the attorney billing info below or download at this link.