KANKAKEE CO., IL. (ECWd) -
During the Kankakee County Executive Committee meeting this morning, there was discussion of using public taxpayer funds to provide funeral flowers or memoriam to a charity to employees and officers of the county who experience a death in their family. Yes, we sympathize with those who have lost loved ones, but that sympathy does not extend to these purchases.
County Board Chairman Wheeler was the only "NO" vote on this policy.
Our opinion is that first, the county must provide statutory authority to expend public funds for this purpose. (Or, "what is the public purpose for this expense"?) How about this: "Where in the law does it authorize that purchase?"
We start at Article VIII, Section 1 of the Illinois Constitution:
- Public funds, property or credit shall be used only for public purposes.
- The State, units of local government and school districts shall incur obligations for payment or make payments from public funds only as authorized by law or ordinance.
As authorized by law or ordinance: Kankakee County is not a Home Rule unit of local government, and as such, it cannot establish ordinances contradictory to state law. Dillon's Rule applies: they only have those powers granted them by the legislature and those other powers inherent and indispensable to the powers granted.
We have found no granting of any powers to a county for the purchasing of funeral flowers or a memorial to charity donation using the public funds of the county - for any reason.
Additionally, Chairman Wheeler stated several times that this policy was only for the board and not the other departments since the board cannot control their spending. He is correct on not controlling their spending, however, anyone coming into the knowledge of illegal purchases certainly has the obligation of informing the Sheriff's Department and/or the State's Attorney - both of whom have the ability and authority to stop the illegal spending. A county department cannot spend their allotted funds how they see fit - it must be spent in accordance with law.
A public body is not a private business and cannot spend public taxpayer funds the way a private company can. Time to give up that excuse. Another board member said his constituents told him not to use county funds for this purpose, but he voted in favor of it anyway because he was "trying to be cooperative" with the other board members.
We urge the State's Attorney to weigh in on this issue and give his written opinion before this board makes a mistake.
Feel-good policies never turn out as intended. After all, are flowers bought for the relatives of every individual resident of the county who may experience a death in the family? What makes these people think they are so special?
The video below is this discussion portion of the meeting taken from Kankakee County 's video.