SPRINGFIELD, IL. (ECWd) –
Frank Vala was Gov. Rauner’s appointee to Chair the Illinois Procurement Policy Board in 2017, he was appointed Commissioner to the Springfield Airport Authority in 2002 by the Sangamon County Board, and was Elected as Woodside Township Trustee in 2017.
Vala had previously “allowed” a $2.42 million 5-year state property lease, on real estate purchased for $575k only one month prior, to benefit a close family friend and neighbor, according to WCIA (click here for WCIA-3’s coverage).
This article will discuss his apparent disqualification for the office of Springfield Airport Authority Commissioner, the Authority which manages the Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield, IL.
After a little research, we found that according to Section 5-5 of the Illinois Procurement Code [30 ILCS 500], which lists qualification to be appointed to the Illinois Procurement Policy Board, Vala is qualified to serve on that board.
Additionally, we believe his appointment to the Springfield Airport Authority Board of Commissioners was proper in 2002 when he was initially appointed.
This is where his disqualification starts:
Frank Vala was elected to the office of Woodside Township Trustee in 2017.
According to our reading of the Illinois Airport Authorities Act, 70 ILCS 5/5, he is disqualified to serve as an Airport Authority Commissioner because he is a member of the governing body of a unit of local government.
(70 ILCS 5/5) (from Ch. 15 1/2, par. 68.5)
Sec. 5. Qualifications of commissioners and removal from office. No person shall be appointed to the Board of Commissioners of any Airport Authority who has any financial interest in the establishment or continued existence thereof or who is a member of the governing body or an officer or employee of a municipality, a county, or any other unit of local government, or an elected official of State or federal government, except when the authority is wholly located within a single county with a population of less than 40,000, an individual employed by a local school district may serve as a commissioner.
What this means to us, is that when Vala ran for office, was elected, and took office, the action of him taking the office of Township Trustee was a de facto resignation from the Springfield Airport Authority Board of Commissioners as an operation of law – no further action needs to be taken (except that he appears to continue thinking he is still a commissioner).
On Friday I sent Mr. Vala an email explaining my opinion that he could no longer serve on the Airport Authority Board, and asked him to resign. I provided all the statutory language for him to read. He initially responded thanking me for bringing it to his attention, but later responded basically accusing me of demanding a resignation and already finding him guilty and that he had a right to a hearing on the issue. BTW, I also included the Hearing language in my first email to him.
Complaint sent to IDOT
IDOT has a statutory duty to act once notified, and after sending Vala the email asking for his resignation, I sent a Complaint to IDOT’s Chief Counsel and to IDOT’s Acting Director of the Division of Aeronautics, asking IDOT to do their duty and inform the Springfield Airport Authority that they have reason to believe a Commissioner is unqualified for office, and for IDOT to demand the Authority notify its commissioner of the issue and demand a public hearing for Vala to show cause why he should not be removed from office.
This is what is required according to the second paragraph of Section 5 of the Airport Authorities Act:
Should it appear to the Department of Transportation that any member of the Board of Commissioners of an airport authority may be disqualified, or guilty of misconduct or malfeasance in office or unwilling or unable to act, it shall notify the Board of Commissioners of that fact in writing and it shall then be the duty of the Board of Commissioners to require such board member to show cause why he should not be removed from office. Any such person shall be given a hearing by the Board of Commissioners and, after such hearing, if the Board of Commissioners finds such a charge should be sustained, it shall remove the person so charged from office, and a vacancy shall thereupon exist for the unexpired term of such office.
The Illinois Supreme Court rendered a Judgment of Ouster, in 1944 , of several Springfield Airport Authority Commissioners, leading to the change (of what is now Section 5) in the Airport Authorities Act (to be consistent with the 1944 ruling) that we call into question with Frank Vala’s appointment and continued service – that elected officials of a local government are disqualified from the office of airport authority commissioner.
Frank Vala chose to become an elected Township Trustee, and by accepting the office, he automatically forfeited any right in his office of Airport Authority Commissioner.
Laws concerning incompatible offices demand that acceptance of an office incompatible (Township Trustee) with one already held (Airport Authority Commissioner), is an ipso facto resignation from the previous office People ex rel. Smith v. Brown, 828 NE 2d 306 – Ill: Appellate Court, 3rd Dist. 2005 at 311 – it becomes vacant by operation of law.
Once again, we encourage Mr. Vala to do the right and honorable thing, and resign from the Airport Authority to avoid the potential embarrassment of going thru a hearing, where we believe he will be unable to show cause why he should not be removed from office.