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April 19, 2024

Springfield Airport Authority disqualification remains even after Frank Vala resigned as Township Trustee –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On April 7, 2018


The State Journal-Register reported (here) that Frank Vala was resigning as Woodside Township Trustee, “rather than go through a legal battle that could cost taxpayers money.”

Sounds good on the surface, doesn’t it?

First, any legal battle would not have cost the taxpayer anything, as an attack on the authority to hold an office is an attack on the person, not the public body. As such, the person would have to defend his right to hold the office, the public body has no part in such a lawsuit.

This was never an issue of him being disqualified as a Township Trustee, the issue is that he automatically disqualified himself, and forfeited his position as Springfield Airport Authority Commissioner, when he chose to accept the office of Township Trustee, which he was actually appointed to in 2015, then elected to in 2017.

In our opinion, the act of resigning from his Township Trustee office has no effect on his disqualification from the airport authority – he remains disqualified.

This situation has been addressed in the courts on several occasions, and each one we reviewed points directly to the automatic forfeiture of the previous office whenever a conflicting office is accepted.

Here is a review of some of the cases we reviewed:

Smith v. Brown (2005):

  • “The court then found that, by virtue of his election to the second position of alderman, Brown was ousted from his position as member of the park district board. The court ordered the defendant’s removal from that position…”
  • “Since we have found the positions to be incompatible, we also find that the defendant’s election to and acceptance of the position of Kankakee city alderman was, ipso facto, a resignation from his position as member of the park district board”
  • Rogers v. Tinley Park (1983):“…that in case of incompatibility the acceptance of the second office is ipso facto a resignation of the first office. By his own action the officer expresses his voluntary resignation
  • “a leave of absence does not remove the incompatibility”
  • People v. Bott (1931):“…the acceptance of an incompatible office by the incumbent of another office constitutes an ipso facto (by the fact itself) resignation of the first office”

There are many other similar cases and each point to the automatic resignation as an “operation of law” upon the acceptance of the conflicting office. Vala willingly accepted the office of Township Trustee, which has a statutory conflict with the office of Airport Authority Commissioner., and by doing so, expressed his voluntary resignation, automatically, form the office of Commissioner of the Springfield Airport Authority.

We are urging IDOT and the Airport Authority to continue with their statutory duty to inform Vala of his opportunity, at a public hearing, to show cause why he should not be removed from office.

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