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Flynn v. Ryan

May 23, 2002

PATRICK L. FLYNN ET AL., APPELLEES,
v.
GEORGE H. RYAN ET AL., APPELLANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Freeman

UNPUBLISHED

Docket No. 90263-Agenda 17-September 2001.

At issue in this appeal is the constitutionality of Public Act 90-737 (the Act) (Pub. Act 90-737, eff. January 1, 1999)), an enactment that, inter alia, created the State Gift Ban Act (5 ILCS 425/1 et seq. (West 2000)). Plaintiffs Patrick Flynn, a former village trustee of the Village of New Lenox, and State Senator Dennis Jacobs, filed a declaratory judgment suit in the circuit court of Will County against defendants Governor George H. Ryan and Attorney General James E. Ryan, challenging the constitutionality of the Act. The circuit court held that the Act was invalid in its entirety. Defendants directly appeal to this court pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 302(a) (134 Ill. 2d R. 302(a)). We reverse.

I. BACKGROUND

The Act created the State Gift Ban Act and amended various other statutes relating to matters of governmental ethics. The Act generally prohibits state officials and employees in the three branches of government, as well as their spouses and certain immediate family members, from soliciting or accepting gifts from "prohibited source[s]," including persons who are seeking official action by, doing business with, or conducting activities regulated by public officials or employees. 5 ILCS 425/5, 10 (West 2000). The Act sets forth 23 exceptions to this prohibition. 5 ILCS 425/15 (West 2000). The exceptions relevant to this case are as follows:

"(21) Golf or tennis; food or refreshments of nominal value and catered food or refreshments; meals or beverages consumed on the premises from which they were purchased.

***

(23) An item of nominal value such as a greeting card, baseball cap, or T-shirt." 5 ILCS 425/15 (21), (23) (West 2000).

The Act also mandates that ethics officers be designated for the various branches of government. 5 ILCS 425/35 (West 2000). The officers have a duty to "provide guidance to members, officers, employees, and judges in the interpretation and implementation of [the] Act." 5 ILCS 425/35(2) (West 2000).

Violators of the Act are penalized in two ways. The first is criminal prosecution and a fine of $5,000. 5 ILCS 425/70 (West 2000). The second mechanism applies to public officials and employees. Under the Public Act 90-737, each branch of government is required to create an ethics commission. These commissions may hear complaints against persons falling under their jurisdiction and may also impose a fine. 5 ILCS 425/45(a)(1) through (a)(7), 60(e) (West 2000). A commission may also recommend further sanctions to the violator's "ultimate jurisdictional authority," including "[d]ismissal, removal from office, impeachment, or expulsion." 5 ILCS 425/65(a)(4) (West 2000). The ultimate jurisdictional authority may then "take disciplinary action against the person as recommended by a commission or as it deems appropriate, to the extent it is constitutionally permissible for the ultimate jurisdictional authority to take that action." 5 ILCS 425/65(c) (West 2000).

Section 83 of the Act requires units of local government to prohibit the solicitation and acceptance of gifts by public officials. Section 83 provides in relevant part:

"Within 6 months after the effective date of this Act, units of local government, home rule units, and school districts shall prohibit the solicitation and acceptance of gifts, and shall enforce those prohibitions, in a manner substantially in accordance with the requirements of this Act and shall adopt provisions no less restrictive than the provisions of this Act. Non-salaried appointed or elected officials may be exempted." 5 ILCS 425/83 (West 2000).

Public Act 90-737 also amended the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/1-1 et seq. (West 2000)) in two significant respects. First, the Act amended section 9-8.15 of the Election Code. That section now provides:

"Contributions shall not be knowingly offered or accepted on a face-to-face basis by public officials or employees or by candidates on State property except as provided in this Section." ...


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