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December 4, 2022

Shelby County Treasurer Files Lawsuit – Names Sheriff and State’s Attorney as Defendants in Declaratory Relief Case

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On May 28, 2021

Shelby Co.  (ECWd) –

The Shelby County Treasurer Erica Firnhaber has filed a Declaratory and Injunctive Relief lawsuit naming Shelby County Sheriff Koonce and State’s Attorney Nichole Kroncke as Defendants.

“During the course of the last year and previously the Sheriff of Shelby County has entered into agreements with individual members of the Bargaining Unit to provide additional pay, additional vacation and additional benefits that are outside the CBA.”

“Since December of 2020, Nicole Kroncke, Shelby County State’s Attorney, has sought payment for employees outside the established policy approved by the Shelby County Board.”

The questions for the courts to resolve in this matter are fairly straightforward.  Should the Treasure pay according to the Federal Labor laws, Union Contract, and County Payroll policy or pay according to the independent wishes of the Sheriff and State’s Attorney.

While the Sheriff and State’s Attorney are granted specific powers to control the internal operations of their office, it does not mean they can do things that are inconsistent with other laws, either state or federal.

While there are specific duties of the Treasure as it relates to county funds, she is bound by the Illinois Constitution Article VIII Section 1(b): “The State, units of local government and school districts shall incur obligations for payment or make payments from public funds only as authorized by law or ordinance.”

While the lawsuit is focused on the payroll policy and collective bargaining issues, the County Board and State’s Attorney have done nothing to date regarding the Sheriffs’ creation of a clothing allowance for himself, which we first exposed in this article, or the prior State’s Attorney’s actions of issuing herself a pay raise in violation of law and later making monthly payments to return the improper payments.  Neither issue has been addressed by the board or current SA, thus no accountability for the self-dealing that violates Article VIII Section 1 of the state constitution.

While the Illinois State Police await a criminal charging decision from the Illinois Attorney General on the Sheriff’s actions regarding payroll and illegal gun sales, it appears the forensic audit approved by the board should have covered the entire payroll of the county rather than just the Sheriff’s payroll.

While the issues raised in the lawsuit are important, there appears to be no shortage of other issues to be resolved in Shelby County.

  • Illegal pay increase/interest-free loan by former State’s Attorney.
  • Pay for deputies in excess of actual hours worked.
  • Illegal gun sales by the Sheriff and illegal purchases of guns by deputies.
  • Compensation for past Chairman Bruce Cannon not authorized by the compensation resolution.
  • Leasing of farm ground to the same farmer for 33 years without any bidding.
  • Payment of property tax for the public property being used for private purposes.
  • Insurance payments for the former highway department employee in violation of law, currently being ignored by the insurance committee.
  • Payroll fraud by a former employee in the treasurer’s office.
  • County Highway Engineer, still employed, operating his private business out of the highway department for over 20 years.

We will update this and other Shelby County court cases as they move through the court.

A copy of the complete court filing can be downloaded at this link or viewed below.

CHANCERY COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

 

 

 

 

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9 Comments
  • J Pogue
    Posted at 19:06h, 28 May

    Nice post today. Did not know farmer leased farm NoBid for 33 years. Great discussion last night about :statute v.s. AG opinion. The list goes on. Watching for resignations

  • PK
    Posted at 22:06h, 28 May

    For odds sake, I’ll add a bullet point for the county having hired then unlawfully retained a private practice attorney, whom should have known all along.

  • Jack Tarleton
    Posted at 00:40h, 29 May

    Kudos to Ms. Firnhaber. At the very least, this suit will expose a culture of corruption. At best, this will put an end to it and result in some convictions.

  • Justice Seeker
    Posted at 07:56h, 29 May

    I hope this board will focus on issues that are truly costing taxpayers larger sums of money than the little bit that will be spent for weeds for one year. The payroll issues need fixed! Time for the board to take responsibility for making real change.

  • Jake Williams
    Posted at 16:50h, 29 May

    I didn’t know a county officer could sue another county officer through a private attorney. Did the treasurer get the court to appoint Mr. Hanlon as a special prosecutor? If not, wouldn’t his representation of the county treasurer be ultra vires (similar to the argument that Mr. Flynn’s work as a contract attorney was ultra vires)?

    • Pk
      Posted at 15:57h, 31 May

      The court has already weighed-in on the Treasurer’s need for outside legal counsel, so “ultra vires” does not apply, I believe.

      Remember…the circuit court ordered the Treasurer to pay Fynn’s fees, but Mr. Bennett (represented by Mr. DeVore) appealed the decision. Status of that appeal is unknown here.

      • Kirk Allen
        Posted at 09:20h, 04 June

        The Treasure also appealed and her case has oral arguments June 10th. Bennetts case is being treated as a non-oral argument case as nothing said would impact their determination. We believe they are going to rule in Bennetts’s favor as Flynn never responded to the Appellate court even after being given an extension of time.

        • PK
          Posted at 18:21h, 04 June

          Thank you.

    • Kirk Allen
      Posted at 09:23h, 04 June

      No, because there were no county funds expended, only private funds. While they are named as defendants, this is more about asking the court what is legal or not. That is the purpose of the Declaratory action. It puts the question to the court to decide.

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