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April 20, 2024

Coles County Board and improper health insurance benefits – Part 3 –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On May 14, 2019


The Coles County State’s Attorney responded for a second time in reference to some Coles County Board members receiving unauthorized health insurance. ( Part 1 and Part 2 )

This response was a little more detailed, but in the end, failed to acknowledge the requirements which must be complied with prior to a county board member receiving health insurance benefits. Read the April 9, 2019 letter (here).

State’s Attorney: A resolution is not necessary. There is no unsettled law in regards to the fringe benefit of county funded health insurance being available to elected County Board Members once it is available for employees.

We disagree: A resolution is absolutely necessary for an elected official to receive any compensation, and that resolution must be approved at least 180 days prior to the beginning of their term of office (50 ILCS 145).

Qualified Agreement: Yes, county-funded health insurance is “available” to a board member once it is available to employees (55 ILCS 5/5-1069) – provided it is included in the compensation setting resolution which complies with the “method of compensation” chosen, and under the conditions spelled out in the employee manual where it talks about health insurance.

Here, the county board has never been granted health insurance under their method of compensation chosen (55 ILCS 5/4-10001 and 2-3008), it was never placed in the compensation setting resolution, and there is no health insurance available to part-time Coles County employees (county policy).

State’s Attorney: Uses Harlan v Sweet to say that a new “entitlement” of a stipend to a county treasurer could not be paid during their current term of office. He uses a 1994 Attorney General Opinion to say that a provision of health insurance benefits to an elected county officer could not become effective during the officer’s current term of office.

We disagree:  Harlan v Sweet also states that salary (or compensation) by any other name, be it a stipend or anything else, is still salary (compensation) and that a person must not be able to increase his or her own salary (during their current term of office).

We disagree:  In the 1994 AG Opinion, this State’s Attorney conveniently overlooks the AG’s reference to health insurance as “salary” (which would mean it has to be in the compensation setting resolution). He also overlooked this statement from the AG Opinion:

If the board makes no final determination prior to the commencement of the term of office. . . then the coverage could not lawfully take effect until the beginning of the succeeding term of office” (provided it is included in the compensation setting resolution – which is the “final determination” mentioned by the AG)

Here, the county board has never made a “final determination” about their members receiving health insurance. If it had, it would have been in resolution or ordinance form and included when their compensation was set. AG Burris finished by saying that a quo warranto action (lawsuit) is the method to prohibit a township from continuing to pay these unauthorized health insurance payments.

The State’s Attorney also failed to cite a 1996 Attorney General Opinion, which further drives home the fact that health insurance is compensation, and as such, must be set by ordinance at least 180 days before the beginning of the terms of office of those officers (this requirement is set out in the Local Government Officer Compensation Act and applies to all elected local public officials in the State of Illinois), and that health insurance benefits, if any, are part of the compensation to be so fixed.

State’s Attorney:The provision of extending group life, health, accident, hospital, and medical insurance is granted to the county board at 55 ILCS 5/5-1069.

We Agree: A county board does have the power, or as the statute says, “may” provide for those insurances. Additionally, we agree with AG Burris that such insurances are compensation and must be set by ordinance or resolution 180 prior to the term of office beginning.

Here, the county board has never properly asserted their powers to provide such health insurance and has never placed it into the compensation setting resolution.

State’s Attorney: Says the meeting minutes from 1977 approved health insurance (for county board members).

We Disagree: These meeting minutes only talk about the approved employee health insurance (by the Building and Grounds Committee – not the county board). There has never been, that anyone can find, a resolution or ordinance specifically granting a Coles County board member health insurance participation, by way of selecting the appropriate “method of compensation” or thru a “compensation setting resolution.” Without those, it cannot be provided.

The State’s Attorney also answered my previous questions, mostly with statutory language applicable to employees and not elected officials. We disagree with those answers also, and for the same reasons we stated above:

  • they never selected health insurance as part of the method of compensation
  • they never included health insurance in their salary/compensation setting resolution.

Unless and until this Coles County board adopts a compensation setting resolution which includes provisions for participating in health insurance for county board members, they are receiving compensation in excess of their compensation setting resolution.

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  • Michael Hagberg
    Posted at 13:42h, 14 May

    I hope that the eventual outcome of this is that State law is clarified to require salary and fringe benefits be approved by ordinance 180 days before the elected term begins.

    Before Belleville Township was dissolved, we tried to remove the Supervisor’s 100% taxpayer funded Cadillac UNION healthcare. He wasn’t even a member of the Union, yet was receiving their healthcare.

    Bottom line, the Township attorney stated that he’d fight in favor of allowing the Supervisor to keep the insurance. We got the typical rhetoric, there is an ordinance (but nobody could produce it). Then we got “We’ve been doing it this way for 40 years.” And bottom line, fighting this in St Clair County would be a losing battle.

    So glad we were able to dissolve the Township and allow the (coterminous) City to administer General Assistance and Community Projects.

  • Robert O. Bogue
    Posted at 16:56h, 16 May

    Why don’t you just name the State’s Attorney in your article, so those of us that are interested will know exactly with whom you’re discussing this matter with?
    Then, when its time to vote on his/her re-election, the voters of Coles County will know exactly who not to vote for because he doesn’t know Illinois Law. Only then, will the issue become crystal clear.

    And by the way, why should he be drawing a government pay check when he gives bad advice to the county board and coincidentally; allows them to break Illinois Law? Would he then be enabling lawlessness? It sure looks that way.

    Are the Coles County taxpayers happy with paying annually for his kind of bad advice? A hundred thousand, one fifty, or maybe 200 thousand a year? He/she needs to admit their mistakes and correct them. To do less undermines respect for the office..