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Monday, November 15, 2021

Court Rules in Favor of County Board in Case Challenging Appointment Authority

Recently, an Illinois Appellate Court ruled in favor of a County Board in a case deciding who has the authority to appoint officials to fill County elected office vacancies. Kloeppel v. Champaign County.

After the voters approved a change in the government structure of Champaign County, the voters elected the County's first County Executive. When the new County Executive took office, there were vacancies on the County Board and in other election positions that needed to be filled. Consistent with past practice, the County Chairman and County Board took action to fill these vacancies. Shortly thereafter, the County Executive filed suit against the County Board claiming that the County Executive and not the County Board had the authority to fill these elected office vacancies.

The case involved an interpretation of two different statutes regarding appointments in County government. The County Executive argued that the Counties Code gave the Executive the authority to appoint all County officers. The County Board argued that the Election Code gave the County Board the authority to fill vacancies in elected positions such as on the County Board. The trial court ruled in the County Executive's favor and the County Board appealed.

The Appellate Court reviewed the two statutes and ruled in favor of the County Board, reversing the trial court. While the Appellate Court acknowledged that the County Executive has the authority under the Counties Code to make appointments in certain County offices (i.e., boards and commissions), that authority does not extend to appointments to elected office, which the Appellate Court determined was reserved to the County Board Chairman and Board under the Election Code. In sum, the Appellate Court found that the Chairman of the County Board, with the advice and consent of the County Board, has the authority to fill vacancies in County elected offices, not the County Executive.

Disclaimer: Ancel Glink represented the Champaign County Board in this appeal.


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