Syverson/Stadelman bill protects residents if local officials charged with crimes put public at risk

SPRINGFIELD – Local elected officials charged with crimes that could harm residents will be temporarily removed from office until their cases are resolved, under legislation sponsored by State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Cherry Valley) and State Sen. Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) and approved Feb. 25 by a unanimous vote of the Senate.

Senate Bill 3460 gives local governments the tools to protect residents in cases when elected officials have been charged with crimes that put the public at risk. It creates a process to remove elected officials who are charged with a crime and placed on administrative leave until the courts can render a decision on their case. A State’s Attorney can appoint a special State’s Attorney if there is a Conflict of Interest. The bill will only affect counties with a population of fewer than 500,000 residents.

“Under current law, only local government employees can be placed on leave until their criminal cases are resolved. 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,” Syverson said, “Senate Bill 3460 sets up a system to place elected officials on administrative leave until their trials are over.”

The 35th District Senator says the legislation sets up the steps needed to protect taxpayers and families, but in a way that also protects the rights of elected officials who are subsequently found not guilty of criminal charges.

“To keep the process from being incorrectly used as a political tool, Senate Bill 3460 requires a three-fifths vote by the County Board to ask the State’s Attorney to determine if the charges against a local government official is germane to the office. For example, if a county-wide elected official was indicted on a traffic charge, it would probably not impact or put people at risk if the official stayed in office until the case is resolved,” Syverson said. “If the State’s Attorney determines there is potential public risk, the case will be taken to the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court, who will make the ruling if the county official should be placed on administrative leave while the case is being heard.”

Suggested by Winnebago County Chairman Joe Chiarelli and Winnebago County State’s Attorney J. Hanley, Senate Bill 3460 has bipartisan support and is cosponsored by all area legislators.

Adopted by a 53-0 vote of the Senate, Senate Bill 3460 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

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