McHenry Co. (ECWd) –
We have exposed numerous examples of unearned sick time and vacation time being given to family members of Bob Miller, and gifts to parting employees. We believe such action violated our laws and our State Constitution for several reasons.
Many have tried to argue that a person magically gets their full vacation time earned on day one of the new year. For example, if an employee worked 20 years he was given 5 weeks vacation. Some believe that at the beginning of the new fiscal year that person automatically has 5 weeks on the books. However, such a belief is not supported by recent Federal court cases on this very point.
Mueller Co. v. Dep’t of Labor, 543 N.E.2d 518, 521 (Ill. App. Ct. 1989) (explaining that accepting the employer’s position “would require us to find an employee ‘earns’ his vacation benefits for a whole year on the basis of his employment status on a single day, … [which] would defy the common understanding of the word ‘earn’ and we decline to adopt it”). (7th Circuit Vacation Ruling)
The attempts to justify such action by implying Miller could change his policy at any time also defies the logic of how our courts apply our laws. Even if Miller were to allege he changed such policy, the courts have ruled and in this case, it is Illinois Case Law.
In a 1980 case in Dupage County, the court made it very clear as it related to claimed vacation time payouts.
In sum, the trial court erred in awarding plaintiff compensation for the accrued but unused time as there was no ordinance enacted by the village with respect to the alleged compensatory time off program and, in any event, there was no valid contract between plaintiff and defendant which contained such terms.
In the case of those who received compensation for claimed earned sick time and vacation time, we contend those who authorized it may have a real problem as the courts appear to make it clear, it was wrong.
Just because a policy “could” have been changed at any time, it is clear that is not how the courts are looking at such a matter. There has to be a record, a contract, policy, or even a note on pay stubs!
There were none of those things in the examples we have presented over the last several months.
As if the Federal Court’s opinion and Illinois Appellate Court’s opinion are not enough to make the case, of additional interest is the Attorney General opinion issued July 30, 1997, from AG Jim Ryan.
In addition to applicable statutory provisions, if any, compensation and benefits of public employees must also comply with the constitutional requirement that public funds and property be used only for public purposes. (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VIII, sec. l(a) .) Thus, it has been held that a payment or allowance in excess of that which was fixed by law or contract at the time when services were rendered, and when no further services are contemplated, is a gift for the private benefit of the individual, which serves no public purpose. (Porter v. Loehr (1928), 332 Ill. 353, 361.)
Under this principle, it has been held that a terminated municipal employee could not recover monetary compensation for accumulated but unused leave time where no ordinance or contract provided for such compensation. (Koudelka v. Village of Woodridge (1980), 91 Ill. App. 3d 884, 888.)
Applying all those cases and opinions to the Algonquin Township Road District spending by former Road Commissioner Bob Miller, we find several points of interest.
- Sick pay was cashed out without any such policy allowing it. Courts have said you can’t do that.
- Vacation time policy reflected it was a use it or lose it at the end of the year. Thus, April 1 of each year you are at zero days and begin earning again. Vacation was paid out that had never been earned. Courts have said you can’t do that.
- There was no law or contract for gifts to be given to employees who no longer provide any service to the public. AG opinion says you can’t do that.
Everything points to taxpayer money being inappropriately distributed to family and a campaign supporter of Bob Miller at the end of their employment, of which the above court cases and AG opinion appear to be directly on point that such action was wrong!
Since the State’s Attorney could not find anything to prosecute, I urge the public to take one suggestion outlined in his 52-page report that is most telling.
“We note too that the Township’s or Road District’s interest here can be readily vindicated in civil court by suing to recover any spending deemed inappropriate.”
“can be readily vindicated”
So that makes two points we agree on in his report. We covered our first agreement in this article.
It is clear the State’s Attorney sent a signal to the citizens of Algonquin Township. We read that message to simply say, sue the hell out of them to get your money back as it was wrong! We believe that because of the wording. He believes the citizens could be readily vindicated.
Yes, we agree with that point, but must disagree with the claim there is insufficient evidence to prosecute.