Shelby Co. (ECWd)
Shelby County has become the poster child for all other county governments in Illinois to learn from, as in what not to do. The failure of understanding the most basic laws of county government continues to expose how ignorant many of the elected officials are. This article may well be the first in a series on local government compliance for counties.
Shelby County received 2.1 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds from the federal government. It was intended to provide support for those financially harmed by COVID. The county had no record of financial harm from COVID but rather than give that money to local businesses and nonprofits like other counties are doing, this money is going to be used for additional deputy pay and things like windows in the courthouse.
While Jay Scott, the Assistant State’s Attorney could not answer questions relating to ARPA funds claiming it was above his paygrade when asked, one would think he would be able to understand you can’t enter into a contract or do any act which adds to the county expenditures or liabilities in any year above the amount provided for in the annual budget for that year.
Again, this is county government for dummies.
In Shelby County, it’s common to see them put the cart before the horse but in this case, their actions point to a possible Class B Misdemeanor for what they did.
(55 ILCS 5/6-1005) (from Ch. 34, par. 6-1005)
Sec. 6-1005. Contract or obligation in excess of appropriation. Except as herein provided, neither the county board nor any one 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. Provided, however, that the County Board may lease from any Public Building Commission created pursuant to the provisions of the Public Building Commission Act, approved July 5, 1955, as heretofore or hereafter amended, any real or personal property for county purposes for any period of time not exceeding twenty years, and such lease may be made and the obligation and expense thereunder incurred without making a previous appropriation therefor, except as otherwise provided in Section 5-1108. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to deprive the board of the power to provide for and cause to be paid from the county funds any charge upon said county imposed by law independently of any action of such board. Except as herein provided, no contract shall be entered into and no obligation or expense shall be incurred by or on behalf of a county unless an appropriation therefor has been previously made.
(Source: P.A. 86-962.)
The County has not taken the steps necessary to spend any of the ARPA funds. Instead, they entered into a contract with the FOP Union for increased deputy pay. The Memorandum of Understanding is a contract. A contract that creates a liability to the county of which no appropriation for that liability can be found in the budget. By all indications, they appear to have violated the above-referenced law.
(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.)
We don’t anticipate any investigation for the alleged violation of the law because of the State’s Attorney and her Assistant’s direct involvement in ensuring the county adopted the MOU while ignoring there was no appropriation to cover it. This will be another example of where the laws don’t apply to local elected officials.
We understand the deputy’s union has already filed a grievance over not getting the extra pay in their recent paychecks. Never mind the fact no such payments could legally be made since it’s not budgeted.
Lesson for Dummies?
Before adopting an MOU with the union, make sure you have the appropriations in the budget. It’s really that simple. We suspect their next move will be to amend the budget so they can spend the money. If they do, they proved our point.
We understand another $2.1 Million will be provided to the county next September as well. One can only wonder if they will include that in their budget next year before trying to spend it.