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Blog comments do not reflect the views or opinions of the Author or Ancel Glink. Some of the content may be considered attorney advertising material under the applicable rules of certain states. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Please read our full disclaimer

Monday, May 24, 2021

IML Offers Virtual Newly Elected Officials Training

For those newly elected officials who missed last week's Newly Elected Officials Training hosted by the Lake County Bar Association last week, the Illinois Municipal League has released a virtual training that you can access on the IML's website. The topics include the Basics of Municipal Government, Open Meetings Act, Ethics and Conflicts of Interest, and a Legislative Update.

It looks like you have to enter your name, contact information, and municipality to access each training session, so the training may be limited to municipal members of the IML.

Also, this training offers some good news for municipal officials who haven't been able to access the Attorney General's electronic OMA training because of the website hack - according to the IML's website, a municipal official who completes the Open Meetings Act training can obtain a certificate of completion to satisfy the statutorily required OMA training for newly elected municipal officials. 

You can find out more about the NEO training on the IML website page here.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Court Addresses PSEBA Benefits and Medicare Eligibility

An Illinois Appellate Court recently issued an opinion regarding the Public Safety Employment Benefits Act (PSEBA). In McCaffey v. Village of Hoffman Estates, the Appellate Court ruled that the Village was not obligated to pay insurance premiums for beneficiaries who had become eligible for Medicare coverage. 

One of the plaintiffs, a former police officer, was injured in the line of duty and applied for PSEBA health insurance benefits for his family and himself. Those benefits were granted by the Village in 2006. Some time around 2015, the former officer and his wife became eligible for Medicare based on disability. The Village notified plaintiffs that it would stop paying insurance benefits and sought recovery of health insurance premiums paid from 2015 to 2018. The Village also stopped providing insurance to plaintiffs in 2018, asserting that their eligibility for Medicare coverage relieved the Village from paying any further PSEBA benefits. 

Plaintiffs sued, claiming that their eligibility for Medicare coverage did not relieve the Village from paying for their health insurance premiums through PSEBA. The trial court granted the Village's motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint, finding that the Village was no longer obligated to pay PSEBA benefits once the plaintiffs became eligible for Medicare. Plaintiffs appealed.

On appeal, the Appellate Court first noted that the PSEBA statute provides that the Village's obligation to provide PSEBA benefits is reduced or eliminated by health insurance benefits payable from another source. The Court noted that a previous court ruling had already interpreted that provision to apply to Medicare eligibility. The Court then rejected plaintiffs' argument that the former officer had "current employment status" with the Village such that his Medicare benefits would only be considered a secondary payer and not a replacement for PSEBA benefits. 

Finally, the Court addressed plaintiffs' claim that PSEBA benefits should not have been completely eliminated, and instead the Village should have been responsible for the difference in coverage between Medicare and the coverage provided by the Village through PSEBA. The Court noted that the PSEBA statute is not clear on whether a municipality is responsible for the difference in coverage, raising a number of unanswered questions for municipalities in interpreting and applying the statute when other coverage is available. The Court noted that a clarification of this issue would be better addressed by the legislature, not the courts, and concluded that where a recipient is eligible for Medicare coverage, it will "reduce" the Village's obligation to provide PSEBA benefits to zero. 

Monday, May 17, 2021

Open Meetings Act Training for Members of Public Bodies

Now that newly elected or appointed officers have taken or are about to take the oath of office, we have gotten a number of questions about the required Open Meetings Act training that all members of public bodies must take within 90 days of taking office. 

We've summarized the OMA training requirement for public body members below.

Section 1.05(b) of the Illinois Open Meetings Act requires all members of public bodies (which includes elected and appointed officials who serve on city councils, village boards, park, school, and library boards, township boards, county boards, as well as advisory commissions like a plan commission or zoning board of appeals, among others) all must complete the electronic training course developed by the Public Access Counselor of the Illinois Attorney General (PAC) within 90 days after the official takes the oath of office or assumes responsibilities of the position. The member must then file a copy of the certificate of completion of the course with the public body.

The problem is that the Illinois Attorney General's website was hacked, so the PAC's electronic OMA training has been inaccessible for months. This is the message members of public bodies see when they try to access the online training required by the OMA:

We are sorry this section of the Illinois Attorney General's is currently down.

Notice to public body members and Open Meetings Act (OMA) designees who are required by section 1.05 of OMA (5 ILCS 120/1.05) to complete the Public Access Counselor's (PAC) electronic training curriculum:

The PAC web page is presently being repaired, therefore the OMA electronic training, as well as the Freedom of Information Act electronic training, are inaccessible. There is no set completion date for the website repairs at this time. Please note public body members and designees are not penalized for failure to complete the electronic training within the statutory time periods.

Please call 1-877-299-3642 if you have any questions

The OMA does authorize an alternative training option for some members of public bodies (but not all, unfortunately). These are as follows:

1.   Municipalities. An elected or appointed member of a municipal public body can satisfy the training requirements by participating in a training course sponsored or conducted by an organization that represents municipalities designated in Section 1-8-1 of the Illinois Municipal Code.

2.  School Districts. An elected school board member can satisfy the OMA training by participating in a course of training sponsored or conducted by an organization created under Article 23 of the School Code.

3.  Park Districts, Forest Preserve Districts, Conservation Districts. An elected or appointed member of a park district, forest preserve district, or conservation district board can satisfy the OMA training by participating in a course of training sponsored or conducted by an organization that represents park districts created in the Park District Code.

4.  Drainage Districts. A drainage district commissioner can satisfy the OMA training by participating in a course of training sponsored or conducted by an organization that represents the drainage districts created under the Illinois Drainage Code.

5.  Soil and Water Conservation Districts. A director of a soil and water conservation district can satisfy the OMA training by participating in a course of training sponsored or conducted by an organization that represents these districts created under the Soil and Water Conservation District Act.

6.  Fire Protection Districts. A member of a fire protection district board of trustees can satisfy the OMA training by participating in a training sponsored or conducted by an organization that represents fire protection districts created under the Fire Protection District Act.

So, if you are a member of one of the public bodies listed above, you may have an alternative to the Attorney General OMA training and might want to contact one of the eligible organizations to ask about their training programs (i.e., the Illinois Municipal League (IML) for municipalities). Unfortunately, members of public bodies not covered by an alternative training option under the OMA (like library districts, for example) will have to wait for the PAC to get their online training up and running - or seek legislative relief to add an option for a public body that is not covered by an alternative training option.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Candidates Who Relied on Wrong Signature Requirement Found Not Eligible

Not surprisingly, we've seen a number of court decisions regarding the April municipal elections, even a few decisions by the Illinois Supreme Court. In today's opinion, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that two candidates for municipal office were not eligible to run for the office of Village President because they failed to obtain the required number of signatures for an independent candidate. Corbin v. Schroeder.

Two candidates filed nominating petitions with the Village to run for Village President. One candidate filed 50 signatures and the other filed 32 signatures. Corbin filed objections to both candidates' petitions and a hearing was held by the Village's Electoral Board. Corbin argued that the candidates were required to file between 118 and 188 signatures under Section 10-3 of the Election Code for independent candidates that signatures, which requires signatures between 5% to 8% of the voters who voted at the last regular election in the Village where Village officers were elected. The candidates, on the other hand, argued that they had justifiably relied on the Village Clerk's statements that they only needed signatures for 1% of the votes cast at the last preceding election in the Village for president, the requirement that applies to non-partisan candidates.

The Electoral Board found in favor of the candidates, finding that they justifiably relied on the Village Clerk's statements on the number of required signatures. The circuit court and appellate court both agreed, and upheld the Electoral Board's ruling in favor of the candidates. The objector appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which reversed the Electoral Board.

First, the Illinois Supreme Court distinguished between candidates running as independents in partisan elections and non-partisan elections. Here, the Court determined that the Village had never adopted by referendum a non-partisan election process, so candidates were required to follow the independent signature requirements, not the non-partisan candidate signature requirements.

Second, the Court stated that the signature requirements in the Election Code are mandatory.

Third, the Court rejected the rationale given by the lower courts and the Electoral Board that the pandemic played a part in the signature requirement analysis. The Court noted that there was no pandemic exception to the mandatory signature requirements in Section 10-3 of the Election Code.

In rejecting the candidates' argument that their nominating petitions should be valid because they relied on the Village Clerk's statements about the required signatures, the Court stated as follows:

Though we remain cognizant that ballot access is a substantial right, we believe the best safeguard of that right is fidelity to the Election Code and not unrestrained discretion by a local election official inexplicably confused about the statutory distinction between partisan and nonpartisan elections. 

Friday, May 7, 2021

Quorum Forum Podcast 52: Ethics for Newly Elected Officials

Ancel Glink's Quorum Forum Podcast just released a podcast episode on government ethics that will be helpful to our newly elected officials (and those who want a refresher):  Episode 52: Ethics for Newly Elected Officials

In this episode, we celebrate three years of Ancel Glink's Quorum Forum Podcast (how time flies!), and with so many newly elected officials starting their terms this month, we're celebrating responsibly by reviewing ethics and conflicts of interest with Keri-Lyn Krafthefer and the Illinois Association of County Board Members.

What are some of your most common ethics questions? Email us at podcast@ancelglink.com. 


Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Court Finds Person Ineligible to Serve As Mayor Due to Federal Conviction

Last month, an Illinois Appellate Court found an individual ineligible to serve as Mayor because of his previous conviction of a federal crime, reversing the circuit court and Municipal Electoral Board that both determined that the individual was eligible for that office because former Illinois Governor Rauner had issued a "Restatement of Rights" to the individual. The Appellate Court noted that although the Governor has the authority to "grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons,” there was no constitutional provision that granted the Governor the power to issue a certificate to restore rights. Instead, the court held that the proper legislative process to restore a person's eligibility to run for municipal office is a pardon. However, in this case, the Appellate Court determined that (1) the Governor's certificate did not qualify as a pardon and (2) even if a pardon had been granted, the Governor has no authority to pardon a person convicted of a federal offense. As a result, the Appellate Court found the plaintiff ineligible to serve as Mayor. Walker v. Barron

Based on news reports, the plaintiff says he plans to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court and is seeking a pardon from the President.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Newly Elected Officials Training on May 21st

Are you a newly elected government official or do you work with someone who was recently elected? Or, do you just want a refresher on some of the legal issues that government officials might encounter. The Lake County Bar Association is hosting a seminar specifically for newly elected officials. Details about this seminar are below. 

The seminar will be held on Friday May 21, 2021 from 9:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. via Zoom.  

The key note speaker will be Emmanuel Chris Welch, Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives.  

Topics include:

  • FOIA and Open Meetings Act, by Julie Tappendorf (Municipal Minute blog author)
  • Collective Bargaining Agreements for Newly Elected Officials, by Karl Ottosen, 
  • Introduction to Legal Issues in Zoning, by Nick Standiford
  • The Tort Immunity Act, by Scott Uhler and Jim Ferolo. 

You can learn more about the upcoming seminar HERE and register for the seminar HERE.