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12/16/87 George W. Dunne, In His v. the County of Cook Et Al.

December 16, 1987





GEORGE W. DUNNE, in his official capacity as President of

the Board of Commissioners and Chief Executive

518 N.E.2d 380, 164 Ill. App. 3d 929, 115 Ill. Dec. 855 1987.IL.1851

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. David J. Shields, Judge, presiding.


PRESIDING JUSTICE McNAMARA delivered the opinion of the court. WHITE and FREEMAN, JJ., concur.


Defendants, several members of the Cook County board of commissioners, appeal from an order of the trial court declaring unconstitutional two Cook County ordinances pertaining to the power of the board members to appoint or remove members of their staffs. On appeal, defendants contend that by finding these ordinances unconstitutional, the constitutional mandate of separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of the county government has been violated. Defendants also maintain that article VII, section 6, of the Illinois Constitution empowered the county board, under its home rule powers, to pass these ordinances despite the conflicting statute empowering the county president to appoint members of the commissioners' staffs, and thus the ordinances enacted by the board were valid.

On February 28, 1983, and April 11, 1983, the board of commissioners of Cook County passed resolutions. The first, the employee resolution, gave the commissioners the power to hire, supervise and fire their own personal staffs, including an administrative assistant and a personal secretary. This ordinance further gave the chairman of the finance committee the power to hire an assistant, and gave the board the power to hire a legislative coordinator and a secretary to the board and the staff. The second resolution, the expenditure resolution, gave a group of commissioners the power to approve or disapprove all expenditures made in connection with the compensation of the employees affected by the employee resolution. Prior to these resolutions, the power to appoint these county employees was vested in the chief executive of the board by section 61.17 of "An Act in relation to the election of county commissioners . . ." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 34, par. 1101), which in relevant part states: "All officers and employees of the county of Cook, in the classification hereinafter provided for, except those whose election or appointment is otherwise provided for by law, . . . shall be appointed by the president of the board, according to the provisions of this section."

George Dunne, president of the Cook County board, vetoed both resolutions as attempts by the legislative branch "to encroach upon the statutory and Constitutional authority of the office of the President of the Cook County Board." Both resolutions were enacted over President Dunne's veto. Two members of the board, Commissioners Bieszczat and Stroger, were not in favor of the resolutions and have joined President Dunne as party plaintiffs in the present action.

Plaintiffs filed this complaint seeking declaratory relief and asking the trial court to declare the resolutions to be unconstitutional and illegal. Defendants are the individual members of the board of commissioners who were in office when the resolutions were enacted and when this action commenced. Each defendant is sued only in his or her official capacity.

Another case between the same parties was awaiting final review. That case involved an earlier resolution passed by the board, over the veto of President Dunne, which attempted to reduce from four-fifths to three-fifths the number of votes necessary to override the president's veto. In the veto case, the supreme court subsequently held that the veto resolution was unconstitutional because it purported to alter the "form of government" of Cook County without referendum approval, in violation of article VII, section 6(f), of the Illinois Constitution. Ill. Const. 1970, art. VII, § 6(f); Dunne v. County of Cook (1985), 108 Ill. 2d 161, 483 N.E.2d 13.

Upon final Disposition by the supreme court of the veto resolution case, the trial court here granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs. The court found no genuine issues of material fact, that the power to hire and fire the employees in question is vested in the executive officer of Cook County by section 61.17 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 34, par. 1101), and that the resolutions in question are unconstitutional because they attempt to alter the form of ...

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