Limestone Twp, Kankakee Co. - (ECWd) -
"I was told," "they said," "everyone I talked to," and the most common response, "it's always been done that way," is what we routinely hear when actions of public officials are questioned.
During the recent Limestone Township meeting the Highway Commissioner admitted on video that he had used township property, a new pick up truck purchased in violation of the law, for personal use. He insinuated in his response to John Kraft that he would not use it for personal matters moving forwards.
When a citizen questioned the approval of expenses for the highway commissioner at the 51:48 mark of the video below, the Supervisor responded with a claim "We don't approve his bills".
He could not be more wrong!
The Supervisor goes on in an attempt to separate the Highway Commissioner's position from the Township. Yes, the Highway Commissioner is an elected official but the Township is directly responsible for numerous parts of his duties to include financial, contrary to the claim they have no authority over him. The excuse was that they can't tell him what to do, which is correct, but that does not mean they have no authority over questionable spending.
Here is just a quick review of applicable laws where, in fact, the Township Board does have authority over aspects of the Highway Commissioner's duties and obligations.
- (60 ILCS 1/80-10). Board meetings; township and road district accounts. (a) The township board shall meet at the township clerk's office for the purpose of examining and auditing the township and road district accounts before any bills (other than general assistance, obligations for Social Security taxes as required by the Social Security Enabling Act, and wages that are subject to the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, or other expenses determined by the township board by resolution) are paid, provided that payments made pursuant to a board resolution shall be reviewed and verified at the next meeting. The board may meet at other times as they determine. The township board may consider and approve bills individually or in a summary statement of any number of bills.
- (605 ILCS 5/6-107.1) Road districts may borrow money from any bank or other financial institution or, in a township road district and with the approval of the town board of trustees
- (605 ILCS 5/6-205) The district treasurer(SUPERVISOR) shall receive and have charge of all moneys raised in the district for the support and maintenance of roads therein.... In counties under township organization such moneys, other than Social Security taxes required by the Social Security Enabling Act, shall not be paid over until the board of town trustees or highway board of auditors, as the case may be, has examined and audited the claims or charges for which such order is drawn.
- (605 ILCS 5/6-508.1) For the purpose of acquiring machinery and equipment or for the purpose of acquiring, constructing, or reconstructing buildings for housing machinery and equipment used in the construction, repair, and maintenance of township or district roads, or for both those purposes, the township board of trustees or highway board of trustees, as the case may be, or the highway commissioner in a county not under township organization, after a favorable vote as provided in this Section
- (605 ILCS 5/6-701.8) The formula allocation for township and road districts for the distribution of motor fuel tax funds, provided for in Section 8 in the "Motor Fuel Tax Law", may be used by the highway commissioner, subject to the conditions set out in Sections 6-301, 6-701.1 and 6-701.2 as respects the methods, equipment and materials appropriate for such maintenance or improvement, and, in township counties, with the approval of the board of town trustees, for the maintenance or improvement of nondedicated subdivision roads established prior to July 23, 1959.
- (605 ILCS 5/6-410) All final payments on contracts for the construction or repair of roads, including the constructing or repairing bridges or culverts, shall be made payable as soon as the work under such contract is completed and accepted by the highway commissioner. The highway commissioner shall submit all warrants, bills and orders for such final payments to the township board of trustees or the highway board of auditors within 30 days after the receipt of the bill.
- (605 ILCS 5/6-411.5). Contracts for public transportation. The highway commissioner of each road district within the territory of the Regional Transportation Authority shall have authority, with the approval of the township board of trustees, to contract with the Regional Transportation Authority or a Service Board, as defined in the Regional Transportation Authority Act, for the purchase of public transportation services within the district, upon such terms and conditions as may be mutually agreed upon.
- (60 ILCS 1/80-15) Supervisor and highway commissioner accounts. (a) The township board shall, at the same time and place as stated in Section 80-10, examine the accounts of the supervisor (including all contingent expenses necessarily incurred for the use and benefit of the township and including the supervisor's accounts as supervisor of general assistance) and of the commissioner of highways of the township for all moneys received and distributed by them. The board shall also examine and audit (i) all charges and claims against their township and against their road district (if not part of a consolidated township road district) and (ii) the compensation of all township officers (except the compensation of supervisors for county services).
The point is, when it says the Township Board shall approve or audit, it clearly points to the board having authority over certain activities of the Highway Commissioner. When we hear a Supervisor make claims that the board has no authority over the Road Commissioner's bills, it tells us they have not read the law that applies to their duties, of which they took an oath to uphold.
We suggest reading the statute and instead of counting on an opinion over the phone or at the coffee shop, ask their legal counsel for a "written" legal opinion that has case law to support the opinion being given.
If there is any doubt that the board has the power to approve bills for the Road Commissioner, one only need read this quote from the Newport Township Appellate Court case where the court stated: "The Township Board shall approve the payment of the Plaintiffs (Highway Commissioner)' legal fees related to this matter from the Road District budget [and] shall do so in the normal manner for processing Road District warrants.
"Shall approve the payment and do so in the normal manner for processing road district warrants", which is clearly outlined in our first bullet point above.
The Township board is there to approve expenditures on behalf of the Township business, which includes those bills from the highway commissioner. Using the logic of the Supervisor we must ask, if a bill was given to him by the Road Commissioner for a bar tab at the Moose Lodge, would he pay it?
Any insinuation that they have no authority over the bills from the Highway Commissioner is simply another example as to why we see so many highway commissioners getting away with violating Illinois law.