County Board Chairman Ray Spencer

Piatt County – Special meetings called illegally by Chairman Ray Spencer

Piatt Co. (ECWd) –

While awaiting his criminal trial after being indicted for Offical Misconduct and Forgery, we wonder if Chairman Ray Spencer might face some more charges for violating other parts of the county code?

We recently covered the failures of the Piatt County Board and the Piatt County Clerk in relation to publication obligations for holding special meetings in this article.

As suspected, not a single one of the 6 Special Meetings were legally requested.

Who can call a Special Meeting in Piatt County?

(55 ILCS 5/2-1002)  Sec. 2-1002. Special meetings. Special meetings of the board shall be held only when requested by at least one-third of the members of the board, or when requested by the chairman of the board in counties where such chairman is elected by the voters of the county, which request shall be in writing, addressed to the clerk of the board, and specifying the time and place of such meeting, upon reception of which the clerk shall immediately transmit notice, in writing, of such meeting, to each of the members of the board.The clerk shall also cause notice of such meeting to be published in some newspaper printed in the county if any there be. In case a vacancy arises in the office of clerk, because of death or other reason, then the request shall be addressed to the circuit clerk who shall perform the duties of the clerk pursuant to this Section. (Source: P.A. 86-962.)

Since the Piatt County Board Chairman was not elected by the voters of the County, the only way a special meeting can be called is when it is requested by at least one-third of the County Board members and that request shall be in writing and addressed to the Clerk.

Not a single special meeting held by the Piatt County Board in 2019 complied with the law.

Three of the meetings were called by Chairman Ray Spencer even though he has no such authority to call such a meeting.

Considering there was not a single Special Meeting in 2019 that was legally requested, nor was a proper notice of those illegal meetings provided to the public as required, the action taken in those meetings should be void ab-initio.

The Official Misconduct statute is a law that was created for public officials.  While we often hear a lot of excuses for not applying that criminal code to public officials, we ask everyone to read it and ask yourself if it applies in the above case.  And while reading it, understand that any 1 of the 4 listed items constitutes Official Misconduct. We mention that because we routinely hear police investigators excuse crimes of public officials by only looking at a personal gain (item 3) by the offender, which ignores the personal harm to the taxpayers. The harm to the taxpayers is they were not provided proper notice of meetings their public officials were conducting.

(720 ILCS 5/33-3) (from Ch. 38, par. 33-3)
Sec. 33-3. Official misconduct.
(a) A public officer or employee or special government agent commits misconduct when, in his official capacity or capacity as a special government agent, he or she commits any of the following acts:
(1) Intentionally or recklessly fails to perform any mandatory duty as required by law; or
(2) Knowingly performs an act which he knows he is forbidden by law to perform; or
(3) With intent to obtain a personal advantage for himself or another, he performs an act in excess of his lawful authority; or
(4) Solicits or knowingly accepts for the performance of any act a fee or reward which he knows is not authorized by law.

State law for County Government to hold Special Meetings is crystal clear and we believe even a 5th grader could comprehend that one single person can not call a special meeting unless that person was elected as Chairman by the Voters. We also believe that the same 5th grader could comprehend the obligations the Clerk has once a special meeting is called.

To hold such a meeting it is mandatory to have one-third of the members request the meeting in writing to the clerk.  That did not happen in Piatt County, even though they held 6 Special Meetings in 2019.  All indications point to either intentionally or recklessly failing to perform the mandatory duty as required by law, which appears to match item 1 of the Official Misconduct statute.

As far as the Clerk’s obligations, it appears she is off the hook as she has never been provided a proper request for a Special Meeting so there is no duty for her to publish a notice for a special meeting.

One thing is clear, Chairman Spencer has no authority to call a special meeting as he did in 2019.

Special Meeting written request FOIA

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5 replies »

  1. I understand there is 2 people on the grand jury that are employee’s of the county. Is this not a conflict of interest? Is it legal?

  2. Also check out states attorney office. She requested the coroner to have a 2nd coroner jury inquest on the Cheryl Houser murder. Now this is actually the coroner’s fault, but a second coroner jury inquest is never needed as the law states the original coroner jury inquest decision can NEVER be changed. Yes there are actually 2 IL Attorney General opinions confirming this. One was in Kankakee County. This means the IL Health Dept can not change the manner of death decided by the second coroner jury on the death certificate. Thus it would be a waste of money to have the second inquest except to just have a big media play up. Also a second inquest is not needed for the states attorney to eventually file murder charges even tho the original coroner jury decided undetermined. Actually then probably all the testimony from the second inquest could not be used in the murder case as it was obtained in an illegal hearing. Guess what that would do? To confirm this law you can call the ILL coroner association and they will explain it plus tell you why it could be very damaging to every county if it was allowed for a second coroner jury inquest to change the manner of death. A coroner jury decides only the manner of death, with the coroner deciding the cause of death. Now I do not know if the death certificate was changed, but assume not as have not seen any ramifications to any IL county. Remember the case up north of the police detective who was murdering wives, and they dug up the second wife who the original coroner jury inquest determined an accidental drowning. But new pathologist evidence indicated a homicide. When States Attorney asked the coroner to have a second coroner jury inquest, he said no citing the 2 IL Attorney General opinions! So one was not conducted, but States Attorney still filed charges and got a conviction. Now if all this is illegal, Piatt County may have a lot more ramifications and expense than what is going on now!

  3. Wait – aren’t the requests signed by 2 county board members? 2 would be more than 1/3 of the board, so wouldn’t that mean the requests were lawful?

    • Yes. As described in this article, two of the six special meetings in 2019 met the special meeting requirement with member signatures equivalent to 1/3 of the board. Of those two, was ample time to notice provided the clerk?

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