Shelby Co. (ECWd) –
During the Shelby County Board meeting last night some things came out that exposes a level of ignorance, malfeasance, and in some cases reckless disregard for the law that frankly we have never seen in any other county.
A great question was raised by county board member Julie Edwards who wanted to know the proper procedure as it relates to spending money. This discussion was in relation to a contract the board previously approved based on false information from former Sheriff McQueen regarding grant money McQueen claimed to have received for body cameras and the equipment necessary to maintain them. Rather than anyone verifying if McQueen’s statement was true or even looking at the budget to see if the proper appropriation was in the budget, a contract was approved and now the county owes over $34,000 for body cameras, software, and storage on a product still sitting in the box. The current Sheriff Brian McReynolds raised the flag on the matter and informed the board there is not nor ever was any appropriation for the contract approved by the board and the bills are due and he is seeking options to fix the problem.
Edwards’s question on this and the follow-up response can be viewed in the video below starting at the 27:15 mark of the video.
When county boards spend money that has not been appropriated in the budget, within strict restrictions, the legislature felt it is serious enough of an issue to make it a Class B Misdemeanor.
(55 ILCS 5/6-1008) (from Ch. 34, par. 6-1008)
Sec. 6-1008. Violations. Any person who violates, or who neglects or fails to comply with, the terms of this Division commits a Class B misdemeanor. In cases of violation of this Division by action of the county board, each member of the board participating in such action shall be subject to the aforesaid sentences.
(Source: P.A. 86-962.)
In response to Edwards’s question, County Chairman Bryan Coffman outlines the proper process in relation to the question.
- Get the information
- Appropriate the funds
- Sign the stuff (meaning checks to pay for what is being purchased)
The continued response from Coffman points to a real problem, especially in light of the fact he knows how things are supposed to be done.
“There’s been a lot of times there’s been money spent that’s not been appropriated throughout the last year 2, 3, 4, 5 years. It’s happened numerous times. It’s happened numerous times this year. I don’t know what the correct answer is.”
Doesn’t know the correct answer? How he can say that when he just outlined the correct answer is beyond my comprehension.
One would think with the board’s legal counsel sitting directly to the Chairman’s right that he would have provided an answer to the question but that was not the case as Assistant State’s Attorney Jay Scott sat silent while serious questions with potential criminal ramifications tied to the topic were being raised.
County Chairman Bryan Coffman made a point that the contract that was signed for body cameras is a contract that must be honored because that is the promise the county made when the contract was signed. While I understand and appreciate the importance of honoring your word or a signed contract, a fair response is the contract should be declared null and void because it was entered into in violation of the law because there was no appropriation in the budget for it.
That argument aside, what Coffman and others fail to realize is the adopted budget is the board’s word to the public informing them how much of their tax money is going to be spent and what it’s spent on. We have a simple question for Chairman Coffman:
When will the county board honor their word (adopted budget) they have with the people?
Why is it OK for this board to spend money never appropriate for the last year, 2, 3, 4, 5, years when the law says doing so without the proper appropriation is not legal? We raised this issue numerous times over the years and they continue to ignore the law.
(55 ILCS 5/6-1005) (from Ch. 34, par. 6-1005)
Sec. 6-1005. Contract or obligation in excess of appropriation. Except as herein provided, neither the county board nor any one on its behalf shall have power, either directly or indirectly, to make any contract or do any act which adds to the county expenditures or liabilities in any year anything above the amount provided for in the annual budget for that fiscal year. Provided, however, that the County Board may lease from any Public Building Commission created pursuant to the provisions of the Public Building Commission Act, approved July 5, 1955, as heretofore or hereafter amended, any real or personal property for county purposes for any period of time not exceeding twenty years, and such lease may be made and the obligation and expense thereunder incurred without making a previous appropriation therefor, except as otherwise provided in Section 5-1108. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to deprive the board of the power to provide for and cause to be paid from the county funds any charge upon said county imposed by law independently of any action of such board. Except as herein provided, no contract shall be entered into and no obligation or expense shall be incurred by or on behalf of a county unless an appropriation therefor has been previously made.
(Source: P.A. 86-962.)
It’s understandable that some new board members do not know the proper process when it comes to spending money and the questions Edwards asked are the first step in fixing a history of doing things wrong. Now that we know the Chairman does in fact know the law on this matter and told the entire board, moving forward will the County Board be held accountable to the law the next time they approve expenditures without appropriations?
Of notable interest in this revealing discussion about body camera contracts, who knew former Sheriff Koonce already purchased body cameras for the deputies according to the September 2015 law enforcement committee minutes? More on that point to come as we identify what happened to those cameras.