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April 21, 2024

Monica Gordon; Cook County Commissioner’s Incompatible Office As Community College Trustee –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On April 27, 2023

Cook County, Ill. (ECWd) –

Monica Gordon was elected as a Commissioner to the Cook County Board (5th District) last fall while she was already an elected Prairie State Community College Trustee in Cook County.

According to the Public Officer Prohibited Activities Act, the offices are incompatible, and Gordon, by holding the office of county board commissioner automatically vacated (by operation of law) her position as college trustee the moment she took the office of county commissioner.

We suggest the Prairie State Community College Board immediately eject her from her seat as the board chairman and trustee. Failing that, we suggest the Cook County State’s Attorney take legal action to have the courts remove her from office.

Section 1 of the Act does not list Community College Trustee as one a sitting count board member may hold, however, Section 1.2 does authorize a county board member in a county with less than 40,000 residents to hold a seat on a community college board. Cook County has more than 40,000 residents.

(50 ILCS 105/1.2)
Sec. 1.2. County board member; education office. A member of the county board in a county having fewer than 40,000 inhabitants, during the term of office for which he or she is elected, may also hold the office of member of the board of education, regional board of school trustees, board of school directors, board of a community college district, or board of school inspectors.

There is also an Attorney General unofficial opinion letter from 2012 (start on page 8) delving into the incompatibility of a county board member also serving as a community college trustee in a county with more than 40,000 inhabitants.

This opinion cited Illinois Appellate caselaw from 2005, see People v. Wilson. which was also cited in 2011, see People v. Niekamp.

The Attorney General concluded that a county board member in a county with more than 40,000 inhabitants cannot also serve as a community college trustee. And further stated, “as a matter of law the acceptance of a second, incompatible office by the incumbent of another office constitutes an ipso facto resignation of the first office.”

Our research has found no changes to state law permitting this specific simultaneous tenure, nor any caselaw contradicting current caselaw on the subject.

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