Supreme Court Upholds County Board Chair’s Appointment Authority

supreme court

On Monday, November 28, 2022, the Illinois Supreme Court issued its opinion in Kloeppel v. Champaign County, 2022 IL 127997. The case presented an issue of first impression in Illinois regarding the power to fill vacancies in elected county offices.

In 2018, the plaintiff was elected to serve as Champaign County’s first County Executive following a voter-approved change in the County’s form of government two years earlier. Thereafter, when vacancies arose in elected County offices, such vacancies continued to be filled by the County Board Chair consistent with past practice. For vacancies in nonelected County positions, the vacancies were now filled by the plaintiff.

In 2020, the plaintiff filed suit against the County Board alleging that the Board Chair had usurped the plaintiff’s authority as County Executive by filling vacancies in certain elected County offices—namely, the office of County Treasurer and certain positions on the County Board. The trial court initially ruled in the plaintiff’s favor, but the Fourth District Appellate Court reversed. The Supreme Court subsequently allowed the plaintiff’s petition for leave to appeal.

In rendering its opinion, the Supreme Court examined two competing statutory provisions. The Court acknowledged that the plaintiff, as County Executive, had authority under the Counties Code to fill vacancies in certain County offices. However, the Court reasoned that the plaintiff’s authority did not extend to filling vacancies in elected County offices, which it held was reserved to the County Board Chair under the Election Code.

Should you have any questions regarding this ruling and how it may affect your organization, or if you require assistance with a local government legal issue, please contact Mark J. Kimzey at mkimzey@airdowerwas.com or (312) 500-5280.

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