Appeal from the Circuit Court for the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois. No. 94 MR 2267. Honorable Thomas Ewert, Judge, Presiding.
As Modified On Denial of Rehearing August 29, 1995.
Present - Honorable Tom M. Lytton, Justice. Honorable Michael P. MC Cuskey, Justice. Honorable William E. Holdridge, Justice. Justice Lytton delivered the opinion of the court: Holdridge and McCUSKEY, JJ., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lytton
MODIFIED UPON DENIAL OF REHEARING
The Honorable Justice LYTTON delivered the opinion of the court:
The Veterans Assistance Commission of Will County (the VAC) brought this declaratory judgment action against the County Board of Will County (the board) to determine which party possessed authority to establish benefit levels for needy veterans, establish salary levels for the VAC's personnel and promulgate rules pertaining to the operations of the VAC under the Military Veterans Assistance Act (the Act) (330 ILCS 45/0.01 et seq. (West 1992)). The trial judge found for the county board, and the VAC appealed. The trial judge also ruled that the VAC's attorney should not be disqualified for a conflict of interest, and that the board must transfer VAC funds to the budgetary line for professional services to permit payment of the VAC's attorneys. The board cross-appealed on these issues.
The plaintiff veterans assistance commission is a local governmental unit established under Military Veterans Assistance Act (330 ILCS 45/0.01 et seq. (West 1992)). Defendant county board is a local governmental unit organized and operated under the executive form of government pursuant to the County Executive Law (55 ILCS 5/2-5001 et seq. (West 1992)).
The parties stipulate that the VAC has no authority to levy taxes or generate revenue. Instead, VAC funds may be drawn from a number of sources, including the county's general corporate fund, a tax levied to support plaintiff's operations and/or moneys from the Illinois Department of Public Health. In Will County, the board has chosen to fund the VAC through the county's general corporate fund. *fn1 The parties also stipulate that Will County has no established guidelines for the compensation of county employees.
On November 18, 1993, the board passed resolution 93-272 which set monthly benefits for veterans in need of assistance. On November 29, 1993, the VAC set identical monthly benefits for food, personal needs, utilities, telephone and transportation. However, the benefit amounts for shelter assistance were different. The board established monthly benefit levels for shelter at $100 for a single person and $200 for a family; the VAC set monthly shelter assistance at $165 for a single person and $265 for a family. The defendants then refused to distribute shelter assistance in the amounts prescribed by the VAC.
For the fiscal year ending November 30, 1994, the VAC approved an annual salary of $46,000 for its superintendent, but the board appropriated $23,700; while the VAC approved an annual salary of $19,500 for its secretary/assistant, the board appropriated $16,640. The defendants then refused to pay the superintendent and secretary/assistant the amounts authorized by the VAC.
On December 8, 1993, the county executive signed an order appointing the county auditor to oversee the distribution of money and supplies to veterans and their families. On January 20, 1994, the board adopted resolution 94-24, which purported to amend parts of the VAC's handbook, including the standards for determining need, veterans' benefit levels and VAC rules.
On February 22, 1994, the VAC filed a complaint for declaratory relief in order to ascertain the respective authority of the VAC and the board. On April 29, 1994, the trial judge ruled that: (1) the Act authorized the county board to establish veterans' benefit levels and VAC salaries; (2) the VAC's authority was limited to providing input for consideration by the board; (3) resolutions 93-272 and 94-24 constituted lawful exercises of the board's authority; (4) the statutory bilateral oversight of the VAC and the board was subject to the board's rules pertaining to the operations ...