An Illinois appellate court recently upheld a decision by a village board majority to retain legislative counsel against a variety of challenges by the village president, including that the board's decision unlawfully interferes with the president's executive authority and that the law firm had a conflict of interest. Jones v. Brown-Marino, et al., 2017 IL App (1st) 152852-U.
In 2015, four trustees on a seven-member board desired to adopt an ordinance to retain legislative counsel to advise the board members. They discussed hiring a law firm that had previously represented them in a case against the village relating to certification of their names on the 2015 ballot.
Two days before the board passed the legislative counsel ordinance, the village attorney filed a lawsuit on behalf of the village president seeking to stop the trustees from passing the ordinance. The suit also sought to invalidate the legislative counsel ordinance or have the court disqualify the trustees’ law firm from serving as legislative counsel due to an alleged conflict. The village president argued the legislative counsel ordinance unlawfully usurped his executive authority to appoint attorneys for the village and unlawfully stripped certain duties and authorities from his duly appointed village attorney. He also alleged the ordinance was invalid because it failed to specify the time period in which it would be effective, and because there was allegedly no prior appropriation in the village budget to pay for legislative counsel.
The appellate court ruled in favor of the trustees, dismissing the village president's case. The court held that a village board is statutorily authorized to retain legislative counsel, that the ordinance was effective for as long as the board majority so desired, that the legislative body was not usurping the president’s executive authority, that there was an appropriate line item in the budget for legal services, and finally that there was no conflict of interest with the village in allowing the majority trustees to select their trusted law firm to serve as legislative counsel.
Post Authored by Adam Lasker, Ancel Glink
Disclaimer: Ancel Glink is the law firm serving as legislative counsel for the majority trustees.