Shelby Co. (ECWd) -
The Shelby County State's Attorney, Gina Vonderheide, sent this letter to the Illinois Attorney General seeking an opinion and legal advice on the matter of the County Board hiring private legal counsel and how to move forward with those actions already taken in violation of the law.
Most disturbing with her request is the fact she fails to disclose other key facts regarding the County Board's hiring of a private attorney to do her job.
"Since 2014, attorney Flynn has continued to represent Shelby County in labor relations matters."
How convenient for her to leave out the fact attorney Flynn has been billing the County for numerous things having nothing to do with labor relations, to include billing for other people in the law firm who were not part of the original illegal resolution, which we outlined in this article. We covered that truth in this article months ago. Additionally, there are numerous other improper billings we exposed in this article, which all of this information, we believe, should have been shared with the Attorney General so that hey had the whole story on what is going on. We suspect this information was not disclosed because even a first-year law student can see the actions taken were completely outside any legal power given to the County.
She also admits this private attorney was not sworn in as an assistant state's attorney. We covered this issue extensively in this article.
Other key elements admitted to in her letter is the fact the original resolution was never renewed. Such an admission is on point with the concerns raised by the Shelby County Treasurer and the actions by the board directing payments to this attorney should continue. Treasurer Firnhaber, in our opinion, has done the right thing by not paying those bills and the letter below is supporting evidence as to why they should not be paid. There is no legal resolution or action by the board since 2015.
Below are her questions of which we will address each one and are confident our response will be consistent with the response that will come from the Attorney General in the future.
1. Was the Shelby County Board in compliance with 55 ILCS 5/4-2003 when attorney Flynn was hired in 2014?
No, the County Board was not in compliance with 55 ILCS5/4-2003 because that statute has nothing to do with County Board powers.
2. Assuming that it is now lawful for attorney Flynn to represent Shelby County in labor relations matters, does Shelby County need to take any additional steps to comply with 55 ILCS 5/4-2003?
Why would she "assume" it is now lawful for attorney Flynn to represent Shelby County in labor relations matter? The law does not say it's lawful for a private attorney to represent the County in any matter. The law simply gives the power to a State's Attorney who: "may appoint qualified attorneys to assist as Special Assistant State's Attorneys when the public interest so requires."
A keyword in that provision is "assist". That means the State's Attorney may appoint a qualified attorney to "assist" as a Special Assistant State's Attorney when the public interest so requires. Considering Shelby County State's Attorney claims she is conflicted and can not be involved in labor relations, who would this private attorney be assisting? All that aside, the State's Attorney has not taken any action to appoint any such attorney, and even if she did there is no provision on how to pay that appointed person in the law, which she appears to admit in her third question.
3. If attorney Flynn can continue as a labor relations attorney, should he be paid as a Shelby County employee, or can he be paid by billing the county hourly for his work?
Once properly hired, which there are ways to make that happen, then and only then can the issue of compensation be addressed but before any such compensation can be permitted it must firts be in an approved budget.
We heard board members imply they would just transfer funds to the State's Attorney's budget, however, it is not that simple, even though that is how the County Board has operated in the past.
Once the budget is adopted and appropriations are made "no further appropriations" shall be made at any other time during such fiscal year." 55 ILCS 5/6-1003. Section 6-1003 goes on to state that:
"Appropriations in excess of those authorized by the budget in order to meet an immediate emergency may be made at any meeting of the board by a two-thirds vote of all the members constituting such board, the vote to be taken by ayes and nays and entered on the record of the meeting. After the adoption of the county budget, transfers of appropriations may be made without a vote of the board; however, transfers of appropriations affecting personnel and capital may be made at any meeting of the board by a two-thirds vote of all the members constituting such board, the vote to be taken by ayes and nays and entered on the record of the meeting, provided for any type of transfer that the total amount appropriated for the fund is not affected."
"Illinois law also provides that funds in an office's or department's budget may be transferred from one account to another only if both accounts are funded by an appropriation from the same fund within the county treasury. See, 111. Atty. Gen. Op. S-1456 (1979). The Illinois Attorney General stated that a county board cannot transfer funds from an account funded by an appropriation from the general fund to an account funded by an appropriation from fees and fines. Id- Additionally: neither the county board nor anyone on its behalf shall have power, either directly or indirectly, to make any contract or do any act which adds to the county expenditures or liabilities in any year anything above the amount provided for in the annual budget for that fiscal year."
Ramifications for violating the budget laws?
(55 ILCS 5/6-1008) (from Ch. 34, par. 6-1008)
Sec. 6-1008. Violations. Any person who violates, or who neglects or fails to comply with, the terms of this Division commits a Class B misdemeanor. In cases of violation of this Division by action of the county board, each member of the board participating in such action shall be subject to the aforesaid sentences.
(Source: P.A. 86-962.)
Why this State's Attorney can't figure out the proper and legal way to hire and pay for an attorney is beyond our comprehension. The response from the Attorney General is going to be most telling. Unfortunately, we don't expect to see their response for some time. An opinion requested by the Edgar County State's Attorney took just shy of 4 years before a response was given. That response was exactly like we said it would be and was covered in this article.
Shelby SA letter to AG
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