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July 13, 2024

Coles County -Insufficient reporting keeps citizens in the dark – Part III

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On August 7, 2018

Coles Co (ECWd) –

As promised, Part III of the five-part series. See Part I and Part II to follow the chain of events that show why the local reporting is so insufficient.

August 3, 2018 Article “The Coles County Board, with Biddle’s support, hired local appraiser Bob Becker to do the reassessment, approving his $115,000.00 bid for the project over one with a higher cost.”

No, the Coles County Board did not hire a local appraiser according to State’s Attorney Brian Bower.

I believe this same reporter was at the same meeting where this was discussed.  We covered that in this article.  In that meeting, the State’s Attorney said the SOA hired Bob Becker.  So which is it local paper?  The County Board hired the local appraiser or the SOA hired him as claimed by the State’s Attorney?

The fact of the matter is clear.  The County Board contracted with him, illegally, to do a job that was the duty of the Supervisor of Assessments.  Of course, Biddle supported it.  What county department head would have a problem with the County spending more money to get a person to do the very job they are supposed to do?  Never mind that the bid was rigged the second the County Administrator sends an email to the bidder and suggests certain changes be made to his bid.  Or the fact that there were no formal bid requests made to the public or actual bid openings.

Sadly, once again the paper has missed the mark and failed to inform the public as to what is really happening.

August 3, 2018 Article – “Becker’s hiring and whether that made him a county employee or an independent contractor is one of the main issues for the opposition group, the Concerned Taxpayers of Coles County.” 

“The group’s claim is that the county assessment office is legally responsible for setting the values, and assigning the duties to a contractor goes against state law.”

This is where things get so interesting when it comes to local reporting.  Is it so hard to ask the County Board to provide one state law citation that gives the SOA the power to contract a person to do her job?  That is all that we have asked.  To date, they refuse to respond but we know why. Because the law forbids the contracting of a public official’s duties and Illinois Supreme Court case law has made that very clear.  Regardless of the case law, the County has chosen to ignore the law up to the recent point of changing the persons pay classification from vendor to employee. Sadly for the county, they have yet to follow the law on setting the wages for this person as required by statute.

For those that want the full story on why their contracting was illegal, read below, which we published in this article January of 2018.

Applying the same logic the high courts applied in Ashton V Cook County, it is clear, what the county did violated the law.

“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. (Fergus v. Russel, 270 Ill. 304; Stevens v. HenryCounty, 218 Ill. 468; Hope v. City of Alton, 214 Ill. 102.) The contracts of employment under which appellants claim were ultra vires and void.”

August 3, 2018 Article- “Biddle said she made the change because it was “recommended” to her, though she wouldn’t say who made the recommendation.”

Wait!  Stop the Press!  Made the change?  What change? 

I thought he was hired by Biddle as an employee in the first place?  If that was true then there was no reason to change anything.

Oh, wait, it was the County Board that hired him according to the paper?

Oh, my bad, forgot, County Chairman told the State Representatives Phillips and Senator Righter they contracted with him.

Stay Tune for Part IV

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