County officials now have clear authority to remove appointees

Brady Cremeens
Illinois News Network
7/21/14

Some Illinois county governments will soon see new measures in accountability, thanks to legislation signed by Gov. Quinn Monday.

The legislation, which passed the Illinois Senate and House chambers this past spring, enabled county boards to create and adopt a code of conduct regarding the behavior of county appointees. According to a press release from the governor’s office, the code may pertain to fiscal responsibility, procurement authority, transparency and ethical matters.

The governor cited the new law as an example of his continued effort toward “more accountable, transparent and effective” government.

“Public officials should always be accountable to the public, regardless of how they attain their positions,” Governor Quinn said in a statement. “This new law is part of our ongoing effort to make sure that all officials at any level of government maintain the public trust.”

The bill also ensures county boards have the authority to remove appointees guilty of misconduct, an authority sometimes previously held in question.

Former President of the Illinois Association of County Officials Mark Von Nida praised the law as “important” and said it removes the question of just what powers county boards have.

“Before today, it wasn’t clear whether county boards could really remove an appointee who needed to be removed,” Von Nida said. “This clears that up and removes that gray area. County boards need to be able to make these kinds of decisions and know the state will back them up if necessary.”

The new law deals specifically with public officials who were appointed to fill a vacancy, and lasts until the designated term ends. If and when they win election to the position, they are no longer bound by the authority prescribed by this legislation.

The bill passed the legislature with broad bi-partisan support, with Democrat and Republican sponsors in both the House and Senate.

“I’m proud of this bi-partisan effort to improve accountability for local government,” House sponsor Sam Yingling, D-Grayslake, said. “It shows that by working together, we can improve ethical standards and transparency for taxpayers.”

The law applies to counties with a population greater than 300,000 but less than 2,000,000.

“Everyone who serves the public should be held to the highest ethical standards,” Senate bill sponsor Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield, said in a statement. “It shouldn’t matter if you are elected, appointed or hired. If you violate the public trust, there should be a way to remove you from your position.”

The new law takes effect January 1, 2015.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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