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December 3, 2022

Was a false invoice submitted to Clark Co. Park District by its Attorney? –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On July 17, 2015

Clark Co., IL. (ECWd)
According to reports from the Clark County Park District’s monthly meeting of the Board of Commissioners, there was an invoice from the attorney, where Commissioner Romero [inadvertently, according to her] “incurred a debt” to the Park District in violation of the law. The debt was “created” when Romero contacted the Park District’s attorney with questions about an invoice, and ended up with a couple other questions. During this board discussion, Romero offered to pay the invoice [$75.00] from her personal funds and was refused.

Is that an accurate statement about a debt being incurred?

We don’t think so, and here is why we believe the attorney submitted a false invoice:

The attorney, Lorna Geiler, who knows, or should know, the Park District Code, knows that no person can create a debt or obligation to the park district without first obtaining express authority of the board, at a public meeting, and that authority written in the meeting’s minutes. The term “Express Authority” in this case means an actual, specific and distinctly stated, and explicitly stated, authority to act on behalf of the District.
With that being said, the attorney (with over 26 years’ experience) was under the obligation of Law and of the Rules of Professional Conduct to inform Romero (a Commissioner for around 60 days) that by asking the questions as a Commissioner, she was expecting representation not expressly authorized as required by the Park District Code.
Additionally, any invoices presented to the Park District for representation that had not been expressly authorized may be false and possibly fraudulent invoices and cannot be paid using public funds. We are working on obtaining a copy of the invoice.
According to Commissioner Romero, she (Romero) had no knowledge that the routine questions she asked the attorney would end up incurring a debt to the district. So the question here is “Can a person incur a debt by asking a question, or is the debt incurred by the attorney responding without informing the question asker that the answers are costing them money?” We believe it to be the latter.

 The Attorney:

Attorney Lorna K. Geiler, of Meyer Capel law firm in Champaign, IL. was appointed as the Attorney for the Clark County Park District. As their attorney, it is her duty to know the Park District Code and any other laws, statutes, regulations, etc. that pertain to a Park District in the State of Illinois.
She has been an attorney with Meyer Capel for 26 years or so, and I believe she is fully capable of comprehending the Park District Code – and any other law for that matter…

Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct:

According to the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys, Rule 1.4(a)(5), attorney Lorna Geiler was under an obligation to inform the client that the assistance sought was not permitted under the Park District Code unless express authority had been granted by the board:

Rule 1.4: COMMUNICATION

(a) A Lawyer shall:

(5) consult with the client about any relevant limitation on the lawyer’s conduct when the lawyer knows that the client expects assistance not permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law. [Park District Code]

The Park District Code:

The Park District Code specifically states:

(70 ILCS 1205/4-6) (from Ch. 105, par. 4-6)
    Sec. 4-6. No member of the board of any park district, nor any person, whether in the employ of said board or otherwise, shall have power to create any debt, obligation, claim or liability, for or on account of said park district, or the monies or property of the same, except with the express authority of said board conferred at a meeting thereof and duly recorded in a record of its proceedings.
(Source: Laws 1951, p. 113.)

This applies to the Commissioners AND to the Executive Director – along with all other employees, contractors [such as an attorney], or any other person whether employed by the district or not!

 Illinois False Claims Act

Section 3(a)(1) any person who: (A) created a liability by knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, a false or fraudulent claim (paraphrased) – and carries with it a civil penalty of between $5,500 and $11,000 plus three times the amount of damages, which in this case the “damages” were $75.  Section 3(a)(1)(G) may also apply.

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