Senators introduce bill to protect citizens when local officials are charged with crimes that put public at risk

Under legislation sponsored by State Senators Dave Syverson (R-Cherry Valley) and Craig Wilcox (R-McHenry), local elected officials charged with crimes that could harm local residents can be temporarily placed on leave while their criminal cases are resolved.

“Under current law, local government employees charged with a crime related to their office can be placed on leave until their criminal cases are resolved. However, county-wide and township-wide elected officials indicted for work-related crimes cannot be placed on leave. They are allowed to continue to work in their office until their legal matter is resolved in court, which could take years,” Sen. Syverson said. “Senate Bill 3460 puts provisions in place that would allow elected officials charged with a felony to be placed on leave until their case is resolved.”

The Senators say SB 3460 offers the steps needed to protect taxpayers and families, but in a way that also protects the rights of elected officials who have been charged but not found guilty of felony offenses.

“To ensure the process is not incorrectly used as a political tool, a three-fifths vote by a county board would be required to direct the county’s state’s attorney to determine if charges against a local government official are germane to the official’s office activities. For example, if a county-wide elected official was indicted on a traffic charge, it would probably not reach that threshold,” Sen. Wilcox said. “However, if the state’s attorney determines there is potential public risk associated with an alleged crime, the case would be taken to the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court, who would make the ruling if the county official should be placed on administrative leave while their case is adjudicated. In the case of township-wide elected officials, it would be the township’s legal counsel who would make the ruling.”

According to the lawmakers, the need for the legislation arose after criminal charges were filed against the Winnebago County Coroner. Even though there was a clear risk to taxpayers and families, the elected official was allowed to continue working at his office, because under current law there was no mechanism in place to temporarily sideline the elected official.

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