McHenry Co. (ECWd) -
We covered McHenry County Chairman Jack Franks' political resolution in this article that would allow county board members to have "civic engagement" trinkets that have their name and information on it. The resolution outlines that such trinket expenditures can be reimbursed provided they are not for political or charitable purposes.
So the question becomes, who determines what is or is not a political or charitable purpose?
The resolution points to an affidavit being required that states such a purchase is for a public purpose. That raises another question in light of all the illegal activities of spending in Algonquin Township.
Who determines what is or is not a public purpose?
Just saying it is for a public purpose does not make it so.
We challenged Franks to provide any statutory authority in the County Code and to date no response.
The resolution is to adopt new language found in the Travel and Business expense policy that was revised just prior to a new law that went into effect January 1, 2017. That law is specific as to what it applies to and how reimbursement is to take place for travel expenditures. We attempted to view the current county resolution cited for the amendment on the County website, R-200907-12-233, but found that it was not shown with all the other resolutions. So much for transparency.
Franks new resolution conflicts with the law in our opinion as it relates to the Local Government Travel Expense Control Act.
Franks Travel and Business Expense Policy Resolution: Civic-Engagement Expenses
Law: Not one word in the County Code or the LGTECA cites "civic engagement" as an authorized expenditure of public funds.
Franks' Resolution: Civic-engagement expenses may be made and are reimbursable provided they are not used for political purposes or as a charitable contribution.
Law: There is no provision for trinkets being a civic engagement item in the law. It appears Franks is trying to expand state law that specifically states in the LGTECA, "Travel means any expenditure directly incident to official travel by employees and officers of a local public agency or by wards or charges of a local public agency involving reimbursement to travelers or direct payment to private agencies providing transportation or related services."
Trinkets with their name and information on it are in no way part of travel.
In fact, the LGTECA was adopted to identify what is a valid travel expense and makes no reference to "business" expense. The law provides for travel, meals, or lodging, not trinkets with their personal information on it. We are pointing out the LGTECA because of the very title of the policy, "Travel and Business Expense Policy"
The County Code is also very clear on legal expenses and reimbursement.
(55 ILCS 5/5-1018) (from Ch. 34, par. 5-1018)
Sec. 5-1018. Reimbursement for expenses; employment of personnel. A county board may reimburse the chairman and other members of the county board for travel and other expenses necessarily incurred while in the conduct of the business of the county.
Handing out trinkets with the elected official's name is not an expense that is necessary for them to conduct the business of the county.
May we suggest first a written legal opinion as to how trinkets with their information on it are necessary for the conducting of county business?
May we also suggest the first point to an actual law that gives them the power to take this action?
One can only wonder how a proclaimed fiscal conservative small government guy would push such a resolution in light of the law he lived under as a former State Representative.
(5 ILCS 430/5-20)
Sec. 5-20. Public service announcements; other promotional material
(b) The proper name or image of any executive branch constitutional officer or member of the General Assembly may not appear on any (i) bumper stickers, (ii) commercial billboards, (iii) lapel pins or buttons, (iv) magnets, (v) stickers, and (vi) other similar promotional items, that are not in furtherance of the person's official State duties or governmental and public service functions, if designed, paid for, prepared, or distributed using public dollars.
(c) This Section does not apply to communications funded through expenditures required to be reported under Article 9 of the Election Code.
As a former State Representative, Franks was forbidden to use public funds for such trinkets if they were designed, paid for, prepared, or distributed using public dollars. In fact, they made it clear the law would not apply if such expenditures required to be reported under the Election Code meaning he could only do it with campaign money, which is because we all know this is nothing more than a campaign token giveaway.
Why not have the same law apply to every unit of government?
I think we all see this resolution for what it is, an expense to the taxpayers that serves no public purpose. It's a means of self-promotion and we believe yet another expansion of government spending on the backs of a county already hit with out of control property tax issues.
Do the right thing, Chairman Franks, and withdraw this resolution.