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May 24, 2024

Shelby County Chairman Bruce Cannon – Should he and others be treated differently than indicted Piatt County Board Chairman Ray Spencer?

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On January 13, 2020

Shelby Co. (ECWd) –

During our first visit to the Shelby County Board meeting, we expressed our opinion to the board about their hiring of a private attorney.  An action we consider to be in direct violation of the law.  I quoted from case law on that very point and can be heard at this link.

According to records we recieved from multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, Bruce Cannon requested the board’s approval for the hiring of a private attorney, Edward Flynn from Decatur. According to the minutes, this problem is going to be expanded to two other counties as it claims this attorney is also doing the same type of labor relation work in both Moultrie and Macon Counties.   The vote was 20 yes, 0 no, and Chairman Cannon signed the resolution establishing a rate of $150.00 an hour.

Financial records point to over $30,000.00 in taxpayer funds being spent on private counsel since 2014.  Applying the same logic the high courts applied in Ashton V Cook County, it is clear, what the county did violates 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.”

The laws of the state created the office of State’s attorney, prescribe the duties, and outlined the fixing of their compensation.  That being the case, just as the courts have said, 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.

As it stands, the taxpayers are paying for legal advice not once but twice.  Payment to the State’s Attorney as well as payment to a private attorney that is doing the job the State’s Attorney is supposed to be doing.

Comparison in order?

Piatt County Chairman Ray Spencer was arrested on multiple indictments this week, one of which alleges Spencer attempted to hire an outside attorney to advise board members during some of the county’s several budget hearings.  According to reporting from WCIA, that incident cost the county more than $9,000.00, per county records.

Spencer’s charges allege “doctoring an email “for the purpose of defrauding another,” Spencer faces two charges of forgery and one charge of official misconduct. The remaining charge comes from Spencer’s alleged attempt to hire an outside lawyer before the county’s long span of budgetary talks culminated in the two-meeting vote he said had been recommended to him by legal ‘counsel’; for that, he faces one charge of official misconduct.”

So in Piatt County, there is alleged hiring of a private attorney, and in Shelby County, there is no question they hired a private attorney and far more taxpayer funds were spent.  The resolution makes it crystal clear, they hired him and the financial records show they paid him.

While there are parallels between what happened in Piatt and Shelby County, the question of criminality is going to be up to the agency that investigates this matter and whatever prosecutor may be assigned to review any potential charges.  One thing we do know, it won’t be the Shelby County Sheriff’s office handling any investigation because billing reflects he too has enjoyed the legal services of private counsel regarding the illegal gun sales that took place in 2018.

While exposing illegal gun sales by County Sheriff’s is nothing new to us, this is a first where the Sheriff is getting private legal counsel on the matter.  (See Page 11 of 60)  Stay tuned for a “lot” more on this one.

Only time will tell as to what happens in Shelby County on this matter, but one thing is for sure, doing things the way they want is not in line with the law.  We encouraged them during our first meeting to step up to the plate and fix thigs.  While our encouragement was welcomed by several, there were a few that wanted little to do with hearing the message we were delivering.

Regardless of those who will listen, our message was spot on and some folks in Shelby County may have bigger problems as more things get exposed.

Our one question on this matter:  Who told them it was OK to hire private legal counsel? 

Below is the video of the entire County Board meeting.

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  • Brad Graven
    Posted at 23:27h, 13 January Reply

    The Chairman and the honorable lady from Cowden need to resign.

  • Paul K.
    Posted at 13:48h, 15 January Reply

    Eagle Creek Resort got a leg up beginning around the 1:40 minute marker! I’ll echo the Edgar County Watchdog’s “Thank you Mr. Chairman” from this computer keyboard.

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