LaSalle Co. (ECWd) -
We had numerous complaints over the last several weeks regarding Bruce Township Supervisor Henry Araujo and his illegal spending of Township General Assistance funds.
We filed a Freedom of information Act request for numerous records and although we have not received the response, we are going to expose what we know based on some great reporting by David Giuliani with the MyWeb Times.
It was reported that the Township Supervisor advised he does not need the Township Board's approval to implement his taxpayer money giveaway program since it is General Assistance. On that note, he is partially correct.
What was also disclosed was an acknowledgment of misspending (illegal) of General Assistance funds to the tune of $120,000.00 dollars. This is no different than what we found in Shelbyville Township last fall. Such spending is illegal Although the board put General Town Funds back into the General Assistance in an attempt to make these illegal expenditures legal, we contend you can't un-rob the bank. Araujo acknowledged misspending $120,000 in general assistance money on items unrelated to the program and such an action is a violation of the Public Aid Act and should be considered Official Misconduct under the criminal code in our opinion.
As if that is not bad enough, the Board's action to put General Town funds into the General Assistance for the amount improperly spent by the Supervisor are now locked away under his control instead of the Board's control, and now can't be used for other Township needs, which is what they were intended for when they taxed the public.
This supervisor's failure to perform his duties as well as his new attempt to ignore the new law that limits the amount of funds the Township may stockpile is yet another reason why he should be removed from office.
(60 ILCS 1/70-40)
Sec. 70-40. Failure to perform duties; forfeiture and disqualification. If any supervisor refuses or willfully neglects to perform any of the duties of the office under the preceding Sections of this Article, he or she shall forfeit to the township the sum of $50 and shall be disqualified to act as the supervisor of the township.
The new spending program he is implementing instead of giving the excess back to the taxpayers is yet another indicator he has no interest in what is right for the Township as a whole. I say that because if he truly was wanting to help people as he is now claiming, why was this program not started a long time ago?
The pattern we are seeing with numerous Township Supervisors is one of arrogance to the point it appears they think this money is theirs since they are in charge of it. They could not be any more wrong on that note.
The taxpayers are in charge, and I would urge a taxpayer lawsuit against the township for excessive taxation, even without the new law. The new limit was based off well established case law when it comes to taxation and this Township has taxed the Township well beyond those established limits. The new law simply lays out a simpler path for taxpayers to achieve accountability.
And for the record, an Emergency Assistance program can only provide funds for one of two reasons, alleviate life-threatening circumstances or to assist the individual in attaining self-sufficiency may be given to or in behalf of the applicant.
(305 ILCS 5/6-10) Sec. 6-10. Emergency financial assistance. Except in a city, village or incorporated town of more than 500,000 population, when an applicant resides in the local governmental unit in which he makes application, emergency financial assistance to alleviate life-threatening circumstances or to assist the individual in attaining self-sufficiency may be given to or in behalf of the applicant.
To show the ignorance of this Supervisor, placing a financial income level to his new taxpayer money giveaway may create a real legal problem for him and the Township. Note the law outlines the assistance is to alleviate life-threatening circumstances or to assist in self-sufficiency. It says nothing about an income level. Even the richest of people have found themselves in a situation where they need assistance to alleviate life-threatening circumstances. Forbidding a class of people based on their income is inconsistent with the law and appears to be a Constitutional violation of equal protection under the law.
Of additional interest is wording in the law on Emergency Assistance:
The emergency assistance so given shall be by vendor payment in an amount necessary to meet the need, up to the maximum established by the local governmental unit.
Note that it does not state the Supervisor sets the amount. It specifically points to the Governmental Unit, which is the Township. Although an argument can be made only the Supervisor can set that amount, we could make just as strong of an argument that that amount setting is applicable to General Assistance that spells out the Supervisor does that. Emergency Assistance is not the same, and we believe the Township Board, which is the governmental unit, has the power to set the maximum amount of Emergency Assistance vendor payments. More legal research will prove interesting on this issue, and we welcome anyone who can provide it.