Coles Co. (ECWd) -
Coles County taxpayers filed a Quo Warranto action against Coles County and their contracted assessor as reported in this article.
The suit was brought because the County contracted a person to do the job of the Supervisor of Assessments.
We will provide what Mr. Bower states in his Motion to Dismiss and explain why such statements may be true in some cases, but are used as a means of misinformation as they are incomplete misrepresentative of facts, and in some cases nothing more than an attempt to confuse the court of what the truth is.
"That upon advice and consent of the Coles County Board, Robert D. Becker was approved for appointment as a deputy assessor with compensation approved and fixed by the Coles County Board to be paid by the county."
Not true. What the Coles County Board did was accept Bob Becker's bid proposal to do assessments that the Supervisor of Assessments is supposed to do and be paid the amount Bob Becker outlined in his proposal. There are NO records to date that support the Coles County Board approved any "appointment" as a deputy assessor nor approved any compensation to be paid by the County. Of interest is the FACT Mr. Bower did not point to any exhibit such as minutes to support this so-called County Board approved the appointment.
"That no contractual documents were signed"
This is true. And since it is true, how does the County Board and Mr. Bower explain payments for invoices for services to the County were paid to Mr. Becker? How do they explain the fact he was issued a 1099 vs a W2? One does not need a "signed" contract to have a contract. The paper trail of documents, tax records, statements, and verbal confirmation there was a contract is more than enough to prove, there was a contract. For Mr. Bower to say there is no signed contract is true but clearly misrepresents the whole truth. If there is no contract, Mr. Bower would have simply said, "there is no contract with Mr. Becker".
"That Coles County Supervisor of Assessments, Karen Biddle, appointed Robert D. Becker as deputy assessor. Attached hereto marked as Exhibit A and incorporated herein by reference is the Affidavit of Karen Biddle.
This is True. However, that action was not done until it was made clear he was contracted to do her job and that is not allowed by law. Of major concern on this point is the attempt to imply to the courts he is simply an employee when in fact they paid him as a contractor and then when caught they paid him as an employee and a contractor. Even with this "appointment", no such "advice and consent of the county board" exists and they certainly never set his compensation. Clear misrepresentation to the court!
Looking at the Affidavit from the Supervisor of Assessments, we find even more concerns and misinformation.
"in her capacity as Supervisor of Assessments, received approval from the Coles County Board for funds to compensate Robert D. Becker"
Note that she did not say the Board approved his appointment. She knew that was not true. So she simply claims something that has nothing to do with the issue at hand. The Board approving funds for her office has nothing to do with the fact Bob Becker was contracted to do her job. There are no records provided to date that point to the Supervisor of Assessments being funded for compensation to Rober Becker as claimed.
"That this affiant appointed Robert D. Becker as deputy assessor."
True. The key to that statements is the fact it does not say what "day" she made such an appointment. They avoid that time in history because the appointment came after the contracting to do the work.
"That no contractual documents were signed"
True. That is a good thing on her part because her office has no power to contract for such work. Actually signing a contract would have been yet another piece of proof that there was, in fact, a contract. Services were rendered in exchange for money. Invoices issued, payments made. Verbal reference to Becker being contract and IRS tax records all indicate there is a contract...but nevermind that your Honor, there were no contract documents signed.
Back to the Motion to Dismiss
"That Robert D. Becker signed Official Oath on the Ist day of June, 2016."
Is this True? We can only assume it's true based on the document, however, it's actual creation date is in question. Regardless, this date of oath means nothing as it relates to his contracted work to do the job of the Supervisor of Assessments, which he invoiced the county for as early as January of 2016, six months before this signed oath of office materialized.
" Grounds. A proceeding in quo warranto may be brought in case: (1) Any person usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or executes any office, or franchise, or any office in any corporation created by authority of this State;"
Usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or executes any office
The law is well established that the Supervisor of Assessments is the person required to perform the functions of that office. There is no provision for her to have a vendor, by contract or otherwise, perform those functions. When such action is allowed, the person performing those functions is usurping, intruding into, and unlawfully holding or executing the office of Supervisor of Assessments. As outlined in the original Quo Warranto filing, "There is no provision in Illinois law for County Boards nor any county officer to contract the duties of the Office of the Supervisor of Assessments to a privately-contracted person."
"The instant case is a tax objection proceeding not a quo warranto action"
Not True. Mr. Bower knows this is not a tax objection case but he is allowed to make an argument that it is because of certain prayer for relief, specifically the voiding of Mr. Beckers work. Of interest is how Mr. Bower ignored all the other Prayers for relief that are clearly not tax objection issues and are on point to a quo warranto actoin. We believe the Judge recognized this as a proper Quo Warranto action because it required his permission to move forward in the court.
"That Respondents, Coles County and Robert D. Becker had the authority to act in the fashion in which they acted. The Coles County Board had the statutory authority to approve and authorize compensation for a deputy assessor"
Not true and True. The County Board did not have the authority to approve a proposal from a private person to perform the functions of the Supervisor of Assessments office. It is true that the County Board has the statutory authority to approve and authorize compensation for a deputy assessor, however that has never happened and has nothing to do with the facts of this case. This is yet another attempt to imply the County Board did nothing wrong when in fact they did a lot wrong. That is proven by actions after the fact to attempt to correct part of the wrongs they did. One example is making Bob Becker an employee after it was exposed they can't legally do what they did, contract with him.
"As a deputy assessor, Robert D. Becker had the authority to assess property."
True. However, that is not the issue before the court. What is before the court is the fact he was doing assessments as a contracted vendor of the county, an action not permitted by law.
"Supervisor of Assessments Karen Biddle~ had the authority to appoint Robert Becker as a deputy assessor all as provided in the Property Tax Code."
True. A fact we have pointed out from the second it was discovered they contracted a person to do her job. The fact the law gives her the authority to do something has nothing to do with the fact the law was not followed until they were exposed for violating it.
Admission of Guilt!
"The Respondents acknowledge that Robert Becker was hired, implied powers bestowed, and deputy assessor duties began prior to his signing of the Official Oath but affirmatively assert that tact has no bearing on the legitimacy of his employment or perform duties."
Becker was hired...as a contractor and implied powers bestowed. The concept of him being a deputy assessor by title came after they were exposed for contracting with him. While the courts have discretion on voiding his work, the action brought was a Quo Warranto seeking the courts to declare such contracting violated the law. That is the important issue here, not whether his work performed was a legitimate assessment. Note that Bower has not pointed to a single County document to support this position.
"That Petitioners' interest is not a direct interest in the subject matter of the litigation-the Office of Assessor--but only a general complaint in the official acts performed by the office of the supervisor of assessments."
Not True. The Quo Warranto is not a complaint of the official acts performed as implied. It is a complaint regarding the County contracting a person to do the job the taxpayers are already paying the Supervisor of Assessments to do. This is yet another attempt to muddy the real issue, an illegal contract.
OK, we're guilty but don't void the vendors work
"That even if the Court found Respondents, Robert D. Becker and Coles County, Illinois, to be guilty as alleged in the Complaint. the assessments and/or evaluations completed by Robert D. Becker from the exercise of de facto authority cannot be declared void."
That is a polite way of saying, your honor, we know we should not have contracted this person to do the work as the law does not allow "that", but please don't void his work because we need the tax money his work generated.
"The Petitioners complaint alleges illegal acts of Robert Becker and the County Board. Quo warranto is not a
proper proceeding to test the legality of the official acts of public officers."
True. Quo warranto is not a proper proceeding to test the legality of the official "acts", however, that is not the real issue here and Bower knows that. A Quo Warranto is about the legality of the Supervisor of Assessments duties being contracted out to another person. The Taxpayers should not be on the hook for her salary and a contractors invoice's to do the job she was being paid to do.
"That to have standing to file a quo warranto action, a private party must allege that he has an interest in the matter distinct from the interests of the general public."
True. Although Bower knows the party has standing, he is, properly, capitalizing on the fact the Quo Warranto did not "allege" such standing. In the event the court grants the motion to dismiss on this point, it would more than likely be dismissed without prejudice and a new action filed to correct the technicality that was missed. We understand a response to the Motion to Dismiss address this point so it will be interesting to see how the Judge deals with it.
"That dismissal of this cause is appropriate where issuing a writ of quo warranto is not in the public interest and would not serve any good end or purpose."
Not True. Issuing a writ of quo warranto would essentially stop all payments to Bob Becker under his $115,000 approved proposal and prove the actions of the County Board were in violation of law, just as was pointed out two years ago. How Bower can say that there is no public interest in issuing the writ is shocking. Nevermind taxpayers, you have no interest in stopping payments to a contract that was never allowed by law.
The biggest admission of the century and no one has been held accountable!
"Petitioners Complaint serves as a collateral attack on the County of Coles updating assessment evaluations of real estate that had not been updated in over sixteen years".
He claims evaluations had not been updated in over sixteen years yet has taken no action against those collecting taxpayer money for a job he confirms was not being done. Each and every person that failed to do their job, as he is confirming, should have been charged with Official Misconduct.
Mr. Bower has been the elected State's Attorney in Coles County for some time. He is now moving on to be a Judge. While I understand an attorney's obligation to defend his client, Mr. Bower also had an obligation to the People of Coles County, to include prosecuting public officials that didn't do their job for sixteen years.
It appears there is a pattern of public employees not doing their job in Coles County. (No offense to those that are doing their job)
As soon as we get a copy of the Response to the Motion to Dismiss covered in this article, we will post it.
A copy of the Motion to DIsmiss can be downloaded at this link or viewed below.