MARSHALL, IL. (ECWd) -
During their recent budget/appropriations hearing there was considerable discussion on appropriating $10,000.00 to the Marshall Cemetery.
Below is what was discussed, along with our opinions of the discussion:
Dick James, City of Marshall Attorney, argues that the council can declare something a public purpose without question and without statutory authority. No need to check with the law or constitution.
His verbal opinion would apply to just about any private business in the City of Marshall – using the criteria he used. Location, number of residents using it, importance to the quality of life - sounds like Walmart, Pizza Hut, and McDonald's would qualify under those conditions.
We noticed he never quoted any statutory authority nor any precedent setting court decisions to support his position on the gifts to Marshall cemetery. We always ask: Says who, with what proof? Who said it was OK, and what statute gives them the authority to do whatever they intend to do?
He also stated that he checked with the Illinois Municipal League and they agreed with his decision, however, when we called the IML and talked to Jennifer Johnson, she told me they do not give legal advice, but that she had talked to James.
So, if what James stated was true, that the IML agreed with him, then may I suggest the city withdraw its membership from the Illinois Municipal League for agreeing with, and by default, condoning the illegal expenditure of public funds?
Another commenter stated that the “vast majority of the public wants this” done, however, established precedent setting court decisions have determined that under Dillon’s Rule as Illinois is, “no matter how much it is wanted or needed it cannot be done without enabling statutory authority”. He also talked about a referendum that passed over 20 years ago for a cemetery tax but someone found a "little loophole" that didn’t matter to much, and the tax was scrapped – we ask how it can be “a little loophole” if it canceled the referendum after its approval. Sounds like a big loophole to us. It must have been something pertaining to the fact the city cannot tax for a private cemetery.
James claims it is the same as other contributions like the Wall Dog, football team, pool fundraiser, etc., and we disagree for the simple fact that a cemetery operates under laws designed to control them and how they interact with local governments. The law is not silent in reference to cemeteries and the law does not provide any municipality with the authority to declare a private cemetery as a public purpose in order to gift it public funds.
There is no excuse for any of these legal opinions that fly in the face of establish law. Again, there is no law in the State of Illinois that gives the City of Marshall the authority to declare donations to a private cemetery as a public purpose and then illegally redistribute taxpayer funds to this private cemetery.
If there are problems with the cemetery and its funds, the cemetery board needs to dissolve the Association and turn it over to the township or petition to establish a Public Cemetery District, and have that district take care of the cemetery.
Another thing to think about in the grand scheme of things, is that the Marshall Cemetery is not registered with the Secretary of State’s Office to conduct business in the State of Illinois and is not registered with the Illinois Attorney General’s Charitable Trust Bureau to operate as a charity that accepts donation in the State of Illinois.