Shelby Co. (ECWd) -
For well over a year Shelby County has been making headlines due to numerous corrupt practices. Many had hoped the election of a new State's Attorney Nicole Kroncke would help resolve the alleged criminal acts by public officials, but to date, it appears the pile just gets deeper.
WAND 17 ran this story yesterday that has ruffled the local Shelby County feathers once again.
Former Sheriff Don Koonce's resignation letter was filed on June 25, 2021.
The County Clerk was directed to issue the oath of office to Sean McQueen even though he had already taken the oath as a deputy. Note the oath given is that he will faithfully discharge the "duties" of the Sheriff. It does not make him the Sheriff.
In a strange twist, McQueen informed the county treasurer that he is to be paid Sheriff's pay effective on the day of his oath and this was supported by the direction of the State's Attorney Kroncke. According to Kroncke, "Sheriff Don Koonce designated Sean McQueen to fulfill the role of sheriff until the county board appoints a sheriff. He file the designation with the county clerk, consistent with the requirements of 55 ILCS 5/3-3010. Until the appointment is made by the county board, Sean McQueen is the acting sheriff of Shelby County and is entitled to be compensated for fulfilling the duties of sheriff, effective June 26, 2021."
The county treasurer once again has stood her ground and refused to make the shift in pay until this person is appointed by the county board, as required by law to fill such a vacancy.
While Kroncke takes the position the Sheriff designated McQueen to fulfill the role of Sheriff, there has been no such designation letter filed. What was filed was the Sheriff's resignation letter that contained his wishes and confirmation he contacted the Democrat Central Committee who would be providing a name to the County Board soon.
"It is my wish to transfer the position of Sherif to the Undersheriff, Sean McQueen.
The Democratic Central Committee has also been notified and will be suggesting a name to the county board soon.
There is no provision for a Sheriff to transfer his position to another. There is a statute that he may designate the Chief Deputy or Undersheriff to fill the vacancy, which has limitations. Koonce's intent may have been to designate McQueen, clearly, his resignation letter is open for interpretation to have an entirely different meaning. What Koonce wishes has no bearing on who fills the vacancy. Had he filed a separate designation notification with the clerk a lot of misinformation and assumptions could have been avoided.
(55 ILCS 5/3-3010) (from Ch. 34, par. 3-3010)
Sec. 3-3010. Deputy sheriff, undersheriff, or coroner to act when sheriff's office vacant. Where the office of the sheriff is vacant, the chief deputy sheriff or undersheriff if designated by the sheriff to fill the vacancy, or, if no designation is made, the coroner of the county shall perform all the duties required by law to be performed by the sheriff, and have the same powers, and be liable to the same penalties and proceedings as if he were sheriff, until another sheriff is elected or appointed and qualified. The designation shall be in writing and filed with the county clerk.
(Source: P.A. 91-633, eff. 12-1-99.)
As far as the undersheriff now being entitled to the Sheriff's pay, we have found no provision in law nor any case law supporting such a position, and the communications from the State's Attorney have cited no such authority regarding pay. What we have confirmed with numerous attorneys, the only way a person can legally receive the compensation of the Sheriff is upon their appointment by the county board. If the legislature intended for an interim sheriff to receive the pay of the Sheriff they would have put that in the law, much like what they wrote into law for filling vacancies in Township Offices. The fact the county's code is silent on the matter creates a statutory prohibition.
We understand the County Board will be tasked with appointing the next Sheriff, possibly at the next county board meeting. Of interest, to date, the Democrat Central Committee has not provided their wishes as to who they would like to see appointed. There is no obligation on the county board to accept their suggested person, but regardless, the person is required to be of the same political party as the former Sheriff, which in this case is Democrat.
The alleged designated sheriff does not qualify for the position due to his voting record. The last primary McQueen voted in was in 2016 and he pulled a Republican ballot. Records reflect he did not vote in the last two primaries, which some have argued makes him an independent. Either way, neither positions are Democrat so if Koonce's wish was to transfer this position to McQueen through the vote of the county board, it would not be legal, as if that has ever been a concern for Koonce.
Koonce and his former office were criminally investigated by the Illinois State Police for gun sales and alleged payroll fraud, which included Koonce admitting deputies were getting paid for 40 hrs while only working 30 hours. McQueen was a recipient of those payroll benefits. The Attorney General has yet to issue a charging decision in the case even though they have been sitting on the matter since last December. The State's Attorney recused her office from the matter yet her office continued to be involved in at least one meeting with the forensic auditor performing the payroll forensic audit of the Sheriff's office.
Other issues yet to be resolved in Shelby County:
- False compensation claims by former Chairman Bruce Cannon
- Sheriff compensation beyond that authorized by County Resolution
- Sheriff Koonce electioneering using county resources
- Alleged insurance fraud by former Count Highway Department employee - Insurance committee failing to bring it to the entire board for resolution.
- Highway Engineer using county resources to operate his private engineering business for 20 years. Part I, Part II,Part III
- Illegal hiring of private counsel by the County Board
- County department heads refusing to follow payroll policy
- Declaratory Relief suit against the State's Attorney and Sheriff's office
We should note it was publicly stated by the State's Attorney during a county board meeting that Shelby County is not corrupt. We would suggest such a position be better qualified in light of all the unresolved malfeasance, commonly known to most as corruption.