SHELBYVILLE — A current sitting member of the Shelby County Board is facing criminal charges related to a political incident from earlier this year.
While board member Teresa Boehm was enjoying a winter vacation in Florida, it was interrupted with news back in Shelbyville. The interruption: the levying of charges against her by State’s Attorney Robert Hanlon.
What is the charge in Shelby County Circuit Court?
The charge of “holding simultaneous appointments” is the exact complaint filed by Hanlon against the Democrat in Shelby County Circuit Court.
To avoid any confusion, there are only certain political positions that one can hold simultaneously. For instance, you could be a county board member and simultaneously hold a position as a precinct committeeperson.
Where things go wrong is when an elected official — like Boehm — holds a position in another political subdivision. In the case of Boehm, it was her short-lived service as a trustee of the Rose Township Cemetery after an appointment late last year. The contention in Hanlon’s filing stipulates that Boehm illegally held a cemetery trustee position while holding an elected position.
Pinpointing the incompatible offices and conflict of interest doctrine
The Illinois Election Code is very vague in determining the legality or illegality of the practice. However, some potential guidelines could allude to some kind of conclusion:
Article 4, Section 2 of the Illinois state constitution states that “no member of the General Assembly shall receive compensation as a public officer or employee from any other governmental entity for time during which he is in attendance as a member of the General Assembly.” However, it does not address lesser political subdivisions.
While the language is not clear, the Illinois Municipal League provides some context under a conflict of interest statute. However, it does specifically address the practice of holding two incompatible offices where a conflict of interest emerges.
Another likely way to determine this was to search for legislation from other states that would specifically address the matter. I didn’t have to go far, with my research going straight to the first state that addresses incompatible offices: California.
California’s Government Code Section 1099(c) codifies the common law prohibition of holding so-called “incompatible offices.” The law restricts the ability of public officials to hold two different public offices simultaneously. However, it has a caveat: “if the offices have overlapping and conflicting public duties” and both positions must be considered a public office.
It’s more difficult to get the exact language from the Illinois Election Code and its governance over the same issue. However, there has to be something in the books that addresses the issue of incompatible offices.
The Public Officer Prohibited Activities Act
This may require revisiting the Illinois Municipal League document. In fact, it alludes to a specific codified law on which Hanlon may be basing his case against Boehm.
The Public Officer Prohibited Activities Act could be serving as a basis for this case, although the language is still generic in nature:
No person holding any office, either by election or appointment under the laws or Constitution of this State, may be in any manner financially interested directly in his own name or indirectly in the name of any other person, association, trust, or corporation, in any contract or the performance of any work in the making or letting of which such officer may be called upon to act or vote. No such officer may represent, either as agent or otherwise, any person, association, trust, or corporation, with respect to any application or bid for any contract or work in regard to which such officer may be called upon to vote. Nor may any such officer take or receive, or offer to take or receive, either directly or indirectly, any money or other thing of value as a gift or bribe or means of influencing his vote or action in his official character.Public Officer Prohibited Activities Act 50 ILCS 105/3(a)
Conviction could result in felony, fines, and public removal from office
While the Act doesn’t specifically address incompatible offices and/or conflicts of interest, it is the only statute that alludes to a Class 4 felony. If Boehm is convicted, not only will the 68-year-old have to serve up to three years in prison, but fined up to $10,000 and removed from public office.
Boehm has been on the county board since 2019 and was invited to fill an existing vacancy on the Rose Township cemetery board late last year. She contends that she had no idea that performing roles in both positions was illegal. She also maintains that she isn’t even sure whether Hanlon is correct.
Hanlon filed an earlier motion of lesser legal action on the matter called a “quo warranto complaint” earlier this year, forcing Boehm to cease occupying both posts, something she did in August when she resigned from the cemetery board.
At the time, Hanlon’s argument was to “want the minimal penalty necessary to bring about compliance.”
The latest court filing reveals that Hanlon has reneged on that initial argument. Requests for comment from Hanlon’s office Wednesday afternoon were not returned.
Boehm is unwilling to allow Hanlon to run her off the Shelby County Board
Boehm, the lone Democrat on the 22-member board, has her theories on the matter.
“If I am found guilty of a Class 4 felony, I cannot serve on the county board, I know that,” Boehm states.
Boehm has retained the services of legal counsel to fight the charge, stating that no one is going to chase her off the county board.
“He hasn’t run me off yet,” Boehm said, addressing Hanlon. “I’m not giving up.”
This is among many disputes and scandals of the Republican-dominated board, including the use of county-controlled farmland and the former county emergency dive team.
Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.