Meet John Doe: Claeyssen should resign Cherry Valley budget officer post

Paul Gorski
Paul Gorski

By Paul Gorski

Cherry Valley Village President James Claeyssen should resign his position as Cherry Valley’s appointed budget officer.

Brandon Reid reports in “Attorney General Opinions Bureau: Cherry Valley village president should not also serve as budget director,” from the Jan. 14-20 edition, that the “simultaneous holding of the village’s budget director position has been deemed incompatible by the Opinions Bureau of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.” “Incompatible” means you should not hold both offices at the same time.

To recap, Claeyssen and Cherry Valley’s board members have routinely appointed Claeyssen to fill the staff position of “budget officer,” a position entitled to compensation and who, according to Cherry Valley’s ordinances, serves “at the pleasure of the village president.” So, Claeyssen appoints himself budget officer and serves that office at his own whim. That just screams conflict of interest.

I am not aware of any wrongdoing by Claeyssen, and I do not have any personal gripes with him. I have enjoyed the few times we have chatted. However, appointing yourself as budget officer, an office designed to review the financial transactions of the village and board, is just bad form. Even if it were not against the law to hold both positions, I’d prefer a budget director a bit more independent from the board.

Cherry Valley’s village board could, by local ordinance, add the budget officer duties to the president’s duties, negating the need for the budget officer position. (See 65 ILCS 5/3.1-35-5: “The mayor or president shall perform all the duties which are prescribed by law, including ordinances.”) The board could then modify the president’s compensation if the board felt the president’s additional duties warranted a change.

Again, I am not accusing Claeyssen or the board of any wrongdoing, other than not being aware of the apparent conflict of interest. For that, I blame their legal counsel, who should have done a better job of advising the board on this matter. There is no ambiguity here — elected officials typically cannot appoint themselves to positions where they would report to themselves. Seems like common sense to me.

In this age of “transforming” the Rockford region, I encourage State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato (D) and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office to strongly encourage Claeyssen to step down from the budget officer’s position. We need to do everything we can to strengthen the public’s trust in local government if we are going to grow and improve our local communities.

I encourage Cherry Valley residents to share their opinions on this matter with their village officials. Call the village at (815) 332-3441 or find more contact information, including email addresses, at: http://www.cherryvalley.org/index.php/contact-us.

Read Brandon Reid’s original article online at: http://rockrivertimes.com/2015/01/14/attorney-general-opinions-bureau-cherry-valley-village-president-should-not-also-serve-as-budget-director/.

Disclosure: I am not a resident of Cherry Valley, but I am a resident of Cherry Valley Township, and I serve as a Cherry Valley Township Trustee, a separate unit of government.

Paul Gorski (paul@paulgorski.com) is a Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper.

From the Jan. 21-27, 2015, issue

5 thoughts on “Meet John Doe: Claeyssen should resign Cherry Valley budget officer post

  • January 21, 2015 at 8:44 am
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    “So, Claeyssen appoints himself budget officer and serves that office at his own whim.” That’s either a willful lie or a statement of ignorance. Jim doesn’t appoint himself anything; the Board does that and does it willingly. And NOBODY has decided it’s against the law; there has simply been an OPINION – one that the author stated wasn’t official or binding. And since it really is as simple as eliminating the position of budget director and adding it to the Mayor’s position, what’s this noise all about (other than taking token shots at a lifelong resident doing his best for the Village? Why is there a need to inflame this? The mindless politics in this small town are beyond stupid. And Paul? Stick to what you know.

  • January 21, 2015 at 11:31 pm
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    Informed Citizen,

    You might have missed these bits of law in your own research:

    The president makes the appointment with the consent of the board. A vote may occur, but a vote of the board is not required. The resident may also removed any appointed village official that the president appoints.

    In addition, Cherry Valley ordinances specifically state: “The village president shall appoint/designate the budget officer, with the approval of a majority of the corporate authorities.” Approval doesn’t necessarily mean vote, and corporate authorities is vague. If the board appoints the budget officer, the ordinances should state that clearly.

    Also, being both president and budget officer likely violates the Public Officer Prohibited Activities Act…

    “(a) 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.” That is to say if the president and appointed budget officer were the same person, that person would have direct financial interest in his/her own performance as budget officer and asked to vote or act upon that performance as president of the board.

    And according to that same act…
    “50 ILCS 105/2) (from Ch. 102, par. 2)
    Sec. 2. No alderman of any city, or member of the board of trustees of any village, during the term of office for which he or she is elected, may accept, be appointed to, or hold any office by the appointment of the mayor or president of the board of trustees, unless the alderman or board member is granted a leave of absence from such office, or unless he or she first resigns from the office of alderman or member of the board of trustees…”

    So it appears there is a law that cover this. Seems pretty clear.

    Thank you for reading The Rock River Times.

    Paul Gorski

  • January 22, 2015 at 10:41 am
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    Informed Citizen should read the Village Ordinances and State Statues. They clearly state the duty of the President is to appoint a Budget Director. Claeyssen appoints himself and his followers vote “yes” because Claeyssen lumps all the appointments together for a single vote. He refuses to take a separate vote for each appointment. Claeyssen also has a tie vote on all Village business, reconciles the check books, signs off purchase orders, and reviews bills. Segregation is called for in each yearly audit. This is a conflict. Why is he hanging on so desperately?

  • January 22, 2015 at 3:57 pm
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    As I read the articles from Brandon Reid and Paul Gorski and dispute of how the law is being interpreted. I question. ” What happen to ethics?” It’s obvious that there are problems and questions and a lack of segregation of duties and it is all acceptable with Jim Claeyssen and the Village Attorney, Jim Stevens. There are letters from the Attorney General and statements from Buscato, the States Attorney, that clearly states this is an incompatible position. It does not take a lot to understand there is a lack of ethics in not taking this deduction of incompatibility and conflict of interest and just step down.

  • January 22, 2015 at 5:16 pm
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    There is another State Statute for this violation.. 65 ILCS 5/3.1-15-15. States a mayor, president, aldermean, trustee, clerk, or treasurer shall not hold any other office under the municipal government during the term of that ofiice except if take a leave of absence … and it continues

    By law, I believe or think there is something in writing that states: anyone who takes on a second office.. would have to step down from the first office.

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