McHenry Co. (ECWd) -
All too often we see local governments get involved in what we call "feel good" programs, and it is those good feelings that are used as the justification for spending taxpayer funds on things that are not within their powers.
We wrote about the Algonquin Township Road District "shredding" event last year and it would appear some people just can't stop doing things that are unsupported by state law, as now the Township has once again sponsored a shredding event where taxpayers pay to have private records shredded.
The shredding of peoples private records is a service. A service which numerous private companies operate all over the country. We mention that because the first response we get when we question the shredding legality is a claim that it is under the recycling statute. We consider such a claim to be putting the cart before the horse.
Townships have the authority to provide the following "services" generally. (60 ILCS 1/85-13)
(1) Ordinary and necessary maintenance and operating expenses for the following:
(A) Public safety (including law enforcement, fire protection, and building code enforcement)
(B) Environmental protection (including sewage disposal, sanitation, and pollution abatement)
(C) Public transportation (including transit systems, paratransit systems, and streets and roads).
(G) Social services for the poor and aged.
(2) Ordinary and necessary capital expenditures authorized by law.
(3) Development and retention of business, industrial, manufacturing, and tourist facilities within the township
It should be noted that nowhere in the Township code does it authorize taxpayer funds to be used to provide a service of shredding the records of private citizens. We believe the Township Board knew that to be the case, and rather than them putting this matter on their own agenda, they had it included in the Annual Township Meeting for the electors to vote on.
That action is also in violation of the Township Code as there is no provision for electors to vote on such a matter. The fact the Township Board placed this on the Annual Meeting agenda is just another example of their inability to understand the law. A simple review of the statute confirms neither shredding nor recycling is a power given to the electors.
Of other interest on this agenda is the tree planting program. The elector is given the exclusive power for such a program by statute. (60 ILCS 1/30-85)
Had the legislature intended for the electors to have the power to spend taxpayer funds on shredding people's private records they would have included it in the statute. The fact that they did not and the law is silent on that matter establishes a prohibition on such an act. Such a prohibition is well established and a key point as it relates to statutory construction.
While many who wish to defend this program as a good program and claim it is actually a recycling program, please visualize the cart before the horse. While we agree shredded paper could be recycled and included in a township recycling program that followed the law, we disagree that taxpayer funds can be used to provide a shredding service.
Since we have used the cart and horse as a reference, think about the feed for that horse. Using some peoples logic, paying to shred people's private paper is recycling would be the same as buying hay from the local farmer and calling it recycling since the horse poop could be used for fertilizer.
The Township statute for recycling is pretty clear:
60 ILCS 1/85-13 (f)- The township board may enter into direct agreements with for-profit corporations or other business entities to carry out recycling programs in unincorporated areas of the township.
The township board may by ordinance administer a recycling program or adopt rules and regulations relating to recycling programs in unincorporated areas of the township that it from time to time deems necessary and may provide penalties for violations of those rules and regulations.
As you can see, the recycling power only applies to the unincorporated areas of the township. If the Township wished to establish a recycling program for the receipt of shredded paper they could but only for the unincorporated areas of the township. An example of how such a program would be legal is to simply draft an ordinance outlining the acceptance of paper, shredded or not, from the unincorporated areas of the township.
To first use taxpayer funds to provide a service and then try to claim the results of that service now make it a recycling program is not how the law works.
We understand that the Road District Highway Commissioner has no intention of using taxpayer funds to pay for the event that was promoted by the Township and Highway Department, but did plan on paying for half of the bill from his own personal funds.
When the bill comes before the Township Board we suspect they will blindly pay that bill and use the excuse that the electors approved it. They should know by now, especially with their crack local government attorney James Kelly, neither electors or board members can approve something not authorized by law.
If local government officials would learn to ask the right question and demand a written opinion on a question of legality we believe we would have far fewer problems in this state.
In this case, the legal question is simple:
Where in the Township Code or any other State Law does it give me the power to spend money to shred peoples private records?
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