Local News

Illinois Senate approves bill to allow local officials charged with a felony to be placed on leave

‘Strong ethics should apply across the board,’ a McHenry Republican says

County and township officials charged with a felony or certain other crimes could be placed on administrative leave while their cases are pending, under a measure that cleared the Illinois Senate last week.

Under the proposal, county board members in counties with fewer than 500,000 residents, would be allowed to vote to place a fellow board member or any countywide elected official charged with an “infamous crime or any felony in violation” of their oath on administrative leave. The vote would require three-fifths approval.

The state’s attorney – or if the state’s attorney has a conflict of interest, then a special state’s attorney – would then review the board’s recommendation and a judge would make the final determination.

A similar process could happen at the township level under the proposed legislation.

The legislation was sponsored by state Sens. Craig Wilcox, R-McHenry; Dave Syverson, R-Cherry Valley; Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford; and Brian Stewart, R-Freeport.

“Under current law, only local government employees can be placed on leave until their criminal cases are resolved,” Syverson said in a statement. “Right now, however, county-wide elected officials and township-wide elected officials indicted for crimes cannot be put on administrative leave until they are judged to be guilty by the court systems. Senate Bill 3460 sets up a system to place elected officials on administrative leave until their trials are over.”

The bill would protect taxpayers and their families but also the rights of elected officials who are found not guilty of any criminal charges, Syverson said.

Wilcox said in the news release that he was pleased with the measure but did not like that it wouldn’t apply to larger counties, saying: “Strong ethics should apply across the board.”

Jurisdictions that have more than 500,000 residents include Cook, Lake, DuPage, Kane and Will counties.

“I ... view it as a good governance bill that builds trust with the public,” Wilcox said in a statement.

The measure heads to the House for further consideration.