Will County, IL. (ECWd) –
8-6-2022: Edited for clarity to distinguish between current law and the change becoming effective January 1, 2023.
Last week we published the membership requirements to be appointed to a County Veterans Assistance Commission.
The requirements are simple and basic:
- The Commission consists of appointed Delegates and Alternates from VSOs in the county.
- Any Veterans Service Organization (“VSO”) (as defined in the Military Veterans Assistance Act) of the county may appoint one Delegate and one Alternate to the Commission (with 2 exceptions that do not apply in Will County).
- If a person is not appointed by an approved VSO, they are not commission members and cannot vote. Period.
- Only Delegates and Alternates have powers to vote on commission business.
- The Act grants certain powers to the Commission and others to the Superintendent.
- The Act grants no powers to any executive board or committee of the Commission and the Commission cannot gift its powers away.
Delegates and Alternates commence their terms of office on March 1 of each year (this exact date was entered into an amendment to the MVAA effective 1-1-2023, as a clarification to the existing Act – not a new enactment. IE: currently VSOs are given 60 days to respond with names of delegates and alternates, which is generally March 1, except leap years which may make it Feb 29th as could have been confusing).
The above is non-negotiable.
From our review of public records, it appears that 8 of the 10 executive board members of the commission have not been appointed as a delegate or alternates to the commission, and, therefore, cannot serve on the executive board of the commission.
The Veterans Assistance Commission of Will County (“VACWC”) has apparently taken steps to undermine the Military Veterans Assistance Act (“MVAA”) by adopting Bylaws not in compliance with the MVAA, and not in compliance with the Open Meetings Act.
As a unit of local government, VACs only have those powers granted by the constitution, by the legislature, and those powers indispensable to the powers granted. They cannot make up their own rules, form a committee, and grant that committee the powers granted to the Commission. It doesn’t work that way.
No matter what the Bylaws say, if their term of office as a Delegate or Alternate on the Commission is expired, and they are not reappointed to the Commission by their VSO, they cannot remain on the executive board nor remain as an officer of the Commission.
There are many issues, and they should probably rewrite the entire set of Bylaws, but for this purpose, we will run through the Executive Committee members or Executive Board members of the Commission.
First, and most people should know this already, committees of a public body do not possess powers unless the statute grants powers to committees. Their only function is advisory and to either recommend or not recommend things brought before the Commission to vote on. However, once voted and adopted by the Commission, they could be granted the authority to carry out whatever resolution or ordinance was voted on (similar to how a county board will approve a contract and then grant the chairman the authority to sign or exercise that contract).
According to public records received in response to a FOIA request (see pages 1, 4-9, 11, 13, and 15) the only Executive Committee members properly appointed to the Commission in 2022, by a VSO to serve a one-year term of office which started on March 1, 2022 (effectively on March 1 as current law states VSOs are given 60 days to submit names of Delegates and Alternate), are Steve Benicke and John Kestle. The remaining 8 members are usurping their offices on the Commission.
The agenda of their July 2022 meeting, indicates the following people are alleged to be members of the Executive Board:
- Jack Picciolo – President (not lawfully appointed to the Commission by a VSO for 2022)
- Nicholas Barry – Vice President (not lawfully appointed to the Commission by a VSO for 2022)
- Denise Williams – Secretary (not lawfully appointed to the Commission by a VSO for 2022)
- Amanda Koch – Sgt-At-Arms (not lawfully appointed to the Commission by a VSO for 2022)
- Jim Singler – Member (not lawfully appointed to the Commission by a VSO for 2022)
- Tom Mlynek – Member (not lawfully appointed to the Commission by a VSO for 2022)
- Janet Blue – Member (not lawfully appointed to the Commission by a VSO for 2022)
- Steve Benicke – Member – APPOINTED by American Legion Post 52
- Vic Martinka – Past Chairman (not lawfully appointed to the Commission by a VSO for 2022)
- John Kestle – Past Chairman – APPOINTED by American Legion Post 935
- John York – Past Chairman (not lawfully appointed to the Commission by a VSO for 2022)
- Wayne Horne – Past Chairman (not lawfully appointed to the Commission by a VSO for 2022)
Irrespective of what their Bylaws indicate, Commission members whose terms of office as a delegate or alternate expire cannot continue serving on the executive board or committee and cannot continue to serve as an officer of the commission (Chairman, Secretary, etc.). To do so would bastardize the intent of the annual appointment process.