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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Vacancies in Office - Comparing U.S. Congress to Municipal Board Vacancies

Illinois residents (and really anyone who keeps up with political news), were probably not too surprised to see Representative Aaron Schock resign from office recently.  There was no sign that the questions about his expenditures while in office were going away any time soon, and he was facing a very public investigation.  What might be interesting to local government officials is the method used to fill his vacant seat.  The process is quite different than the one that applies to vacant municipal offices.

When a member of the U.S. House of Representatives resigns and the vacancy is more than 180 days before the next general election, the Illinois Election Code provides that the Illinois Governor has five days to schedule a special election to fill the vacancy, which election must occur within 115 days of that action.  10 ILCS 5/25-7.  What is interesting about this process is there is no provision for filling the temporary vacancy until the special election - the office simply remains vacant until that time.  

Compare this process to the process used to fill a vacancy in the office of U.S. Senate, which allows the Governor to make a temporary appointment to fill the vacancy until the next election at which representatives in Congress  are elected.  10 ILCS 5/25-8.  Many of you may recall the last time this process was used - when former Governor Blagojevich had the power to appoint the replacement to fill President Obama's former U.S. Senate seat.  

So, how is this different from the municipal vacancy process?  First, the process for filling a vacancy on a City Council or Village Board is quite complicated, and will depend on a number of factors, including the date of the vacancy in relation to the upcoming election schedule, the time left in the current term of office, and the reason for the vacancy.  Unlike the process for filling other vacancies, the process for municipal office vacancies is not set out in the Election Code, but is located in the Municipal Code.  65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-50.

Let's go through the steps for filling a vacancy in the office of village trustee.  A village trustee submits a letter of resignation to the board that is effective immediately.  The trustee has 25 months left in his 4 year term.  The resignation is submitted today, which is 2 1/2 weeks before the consolidated general election.  How is this vacancy filled?

There are two methods of filling a vacancy in the office of village trustee - either election or appointment by the village president with the advice and consent of the board.  The first process (election) applies if a vacancy occurs in an elective office with a 4 year term, with at least 28 months left on that term, and the vacancy occurs at least 130 days before the general municipal election next scheduled.  Here, the trustee has only 25 months left on his term and the election is in 2 1/2 weeks.  So, this process would not apply.

That means that the appointment process is the correct procedure.  The village president has 60 days to make an appointment to fill the vacancy, which appointment then goes to the village board for approval.  The board has 30 days to act on that appointment.  If that appointment fails, then the president can appoint a second person and bring that appointment to the board for approval.  If the second appointment fails, then the president can make a temporary appointment from one of the two appointees who failed to receive approval, without the approval of the board.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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