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April 18, 2024

Shelby County – Farm Lease Facts

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On June 12, 2021

Shelby Co.  (ECWd) –

The recent Shelby County Board agenda included, once again, the leasing of county farm ground.  Considering this matter has been voted on multiple times and failed, I assumed a defibrillator was going to be brought to the meeting to shock the dead horse back to life and then they would put him out to pasture on the farm ground.

According to Nichole Kroncke, Shelby County State’s Attorney, the money coming to the county from a farm lease to a private farmer constitutes the required public purpose.  We have disagreed with that position for years based on our research and input from many sources, including attorneys.

While continuing research on this matter it has become crystal clear why county government cannot lease farm ground to a private farmer outside the very specific statutes permitting it, which in the case of Shelby County do not apply.

Today’s findings come from a simple abandonment of Google as a search engine and the use of Duck Duck Go.

A recent letter from the Illinois Attorney General had all kinds of legal references and statements of which one jumped out like a wild horse from behind a barn door.

“:….when the General Assembly expressly authorizes a county to lease county property to a private entity, there is a presumption that a proper public purpose exists.”

The reason there is that presumption is that the Constitution still applies and any adopted law must conform accordingly.  When it does not they can be declared unconstitutional.

While the county is authorized to lease property to a private entity, it is crystal clear and supported by case law, there is a presumption that a proper public purpose exists.  In the recent discussion of the law on which Kroncke relies, she has ignored that there is a presumption that a lease to a private entity has a public purpose. She has stated several times that making money from the lease meets the public purpose clause.  While using a different search engine, I went to the case law referenced in the Attorney General’s letter.  One of the results while searching would be a good read for everyone who has any confusion on what constitutes a public purpose in Illinois.

According to the Illinois Constitution Annotated for the Legislature, Kroncke’s position that making money from the ground constitutes a public purpose is wrong.

As found on page 127 of the official state document on the issue of the use of public funds, property, and credit is not just about consideration to the county:

Several Attorney General’s opinions have addressed leasing of county-owned real estate to other persons or organizations. Those opinions advised that not only must such leases be for adequate consideration to the county (unless the county is authorized by law to make a donation to the lessee), but the use to which the lessee puts the property must itself benefit the public, such as providing space for other units of government or for legislators.

Lets’ break this down:

  • Lessee: – The Farmer
  • Use to which the farmer puts the property – private interest of which the public has no benefit

A private farming operation does not benefit the public but rather the private interest of the farmer.  To better understand this we urge everyone to read page 127 to learn how the courts have looked at private use of public property.

“The Illinois Supreme Court has upheld, as serving a public purpose, use of public assets or credit for urban redevelopment, industrial development, creation of and aid to mass transit, expanding facilities for the public to attend sporting events, enforcing child-support obligations, and even transporting students to private schools along regular public school bus routes.”

In each example above there is a public purpose that benefits the public.

Public purpose is not just about making money as this county board is being told.  Public purpose has two prongs that must be applied, and clearly, private farming is not a public benefit and does not meet the public purpose provision in our constitution.

While the leasing of farm ground failed once again, other matters of concern have yet to be resolved.

  • Illegal gun sales by the Sheriff
  • Alleged payroll fraud in excess of $400,000
  • Illegal use of the public property by the County Highway Engineer who operated his private business out of county facilities
  • Alleged Insurance Fraud

We will continue to update the public on these matters if and when they get resolved.






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  • PK
    Posted at 16:52h, 12 June

    Interesting! It’s the 5th edition, current as of 2018.

    Details of the 30+ counties leasing arrangements referenced by the state’s attorney during the last Shelby county board meeting are even more pertinent Once again, it appears that simply referencing how Piatt or any other county does something for justification fails. But wait….the Edgar County Watchdogs have already and repeatedly addressed the Shelby County Board on the merits of “calling around to other counties.”

    On the plus side, in the case for leasing made last, one of the board members was certain to inform of the new requirement for formal bidding…something completely missing from the most recent prior poor farm, farming arrangements.

  • Homer
    Posted at 15:35h, 13 June

    39 thousand dollars will be lost the money could have been used for roads or court house repairs or any other Shelby county public needs it’s to bad it has come to this . Normally watchdogs groups watch governments bad spending not making sure they loose it. I know what you will say John Kraft if you don’t like it get the law changed just maybe you should talk to Brad Holbrook and get it changed. That’s if he could find time from informing people on wind turbines lol

  • Moe Lester
    Posted at 13:07h, 14 June

    The brilliant folks that voted to let this farm sit idle should be dragged by a chain through the weeds that are taking over this fallowed farm. Brad Halbrook should have to eat the dirt from this fallowed farm everyday for breakfast. He should also stick to post pounding, he was better at that. Homer has it right that normally watchdog groups uncover unnecessary spending, illegal activities. Instead your noble pursuit has cost the county 40K in cash rent and probabaly another 5-10K to keep the Poor Farm free of weeds. Maybe you justice warriors should saddle up and head out to the other 30+ counties that are doing this without your approval. I really believe you guys think your on the right side of this. Your not. Your WRONG.

    • Kirk Allen
      Posted at 15:29h, 14 June

      Sad to see people put money over following the law. The other counties will be dealt with as this moves forward. It DOES NOT cost 5-10 K to mow this ground twice a year. How special you have no problem with illegal spending of our taxdollars to pay property tax for ground a private business used on the backs of the taxpayer. I note you did not deduct those payments from your figure. Not sure what Halbrook had to do with our exposing this?

      • PK
        Posted at 20:24h, 14 June

        County owned land use: Evidently, it’s not easy to agree to disagree when the sole focus of what can be done with non-tax revenue from that land is kept uprooted in the foreground of the discussion. Growing pains so much so that some folks seem closed to being informed and won’t even allow others room to have or hold a difference of opinion. I wonder if the SA or Farm Committee has a copy of the 2018 document referenced in this news report.

    • PK
      Posted at 20:36h, 14 June

      Welp, it’d be excellent if Shelby county were cited as example for causing other counties to sharpen. Shelby County’s legislative district reps could probably help make that happen sooner than later.

  • Homer
    Posted at 19:53h, 14 June

    University of Illinois mowing rate chart says 23.50 per acre if you use there custom rate then it would 4600 for just one mowing

    • Kirk Allen
      Posted at 19:56h, 14 June

      Yep, and that assumes someone is going to get hired to mow it rather than volunteer to cut it.

  • Moe Lester
    Posted at 12:18h, 15 June

    Maybe Mark Bennett or Robert Orman can generously donate the time, fuel, and equipment needed. Or maybe some of the other non farmer members that voted to idle this ground can fire up their lawnmowers and start wacking away at that 200 acres. Hell maybe we could have a public mowing day. Bring your lawn mowers and trimmers. Maybe setup a food truck and some concessions. Bring the whole family. Come explore the Poor Farm!!! #NotIllegalToRentIt #YourWrong #StupidIsAsStupidDoes

    • John Kraft
      Posted at 10:44h, 16 June


      • PK
        Posted at 13:27h, 16 June

        ‘Conjunction junction, what’s your function’

        But italicized tic-tac-tows, contractions, and pronouns can be confusing too.

    • PK
      Posted at 08:52h, 21 June

      A public mowing day? Good idea to target a fall cover-crop too, I guess.

  • PK
    Posted at 07:43h, 23 June

    Shelby County has a government web-site, but it’s been “under construction” for more than 18 months. I’ve not checked websites of all Illinois counties to know how far Shelby County lags behind, but some many provide access to documentation of the county board’s workings. I could easily be convinced that proceeds from the poor farm, if properly managed and accounted for, could fund the development, maintenance, and use of the Shelby County web-site, thus meeting the “public purpose” requirement.

    • PK
      Posted at 15:08h, 18 July

      Shelby County, Illinois is bordered by eight other counties. Each of these neighboring counties has an official government web-site which gives the public access to information from their respective county boards and committees, including meeting notices, agendas, and minutes. According to Shelby County’s web-site, an update was last done in 2015.

  • Aaron
    Posted at 07:53h, 24 June

    If income from farm ground serves no public interest to the county as income, then why are taxes legal?

    • Kirk Allen
      Posted at 08:52h, 24 June

      No one said it does not serve the public interest. The constitution requires the use of the PROPERTY to have a Public Purpose, meaning it has to provide a benefit to the general public, which does not happen with leasing it to a single farmer for profit. Taxes have nothing to do with the leasing of government property. If Shelby County was interested in helping the taxpayer, the taxes they collect should be offset by any funds received from leasing property that belongs to the people.

      • Aaron
        Posted at 12:37h, 24 June

        Taxes have nothing to do with the leasing of public property . . . How can that be true if the people would be taxed more without the income? Revenue is revenue is revenue. The county is just gonna have to sell I guess.