'Very disappointing': Effort stalls to remove Illinois elected officials charged with crimes

ROCKFORD — State Sen. Dave Syverson blasted House Democrats Sunday for "killing" a proposed bipartisan bill that would temporarily remove local elected officials from office when they are charged with crimes.

State Rep. Dave Vella, D-Rockford, a co-sponsor of the bill on the House side, said the bill is far from dead.

"The legislation is still there," he said. "It's still alive. I have not given up on this one. It's important to the area."

Senate Bill 3460 was introduced in January by Syverson in response to corruption charges levied in 2020 and 2021 against Winnebago County Coroner Bill Hintz. He is accused of theft, official misconduct and even stealing from the dead.

More: Winnebago County coroner's ongoing misconduct, theft charges prompt call for change

The Winnebago County Board called for Hintz's resignation but could not legally remove him from office during his elected term unless he was convicted. Hintz eventually agreed to a paid administrative leave of absence until his case is settled.

Approved by a unanimous Senate vote on Feb. 25, Syverson said the bill gives local governments the tools to protect residents in cases when elected officials have been charged with crimes that put the public at risk. It creates a process to remove elected officials who are charged with crimes and put them on administrative leave until decisions are made on their cases.

“We were sending a strong message with this legislation – elected officials are not above the law,” said Syverson, R-Cherry Valley. “It’s very disappointing, and frankly hard to understand why House Democrats stopped a bill that would protect taxpayers and families.”

Both state Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Loves Park, and Vella said concerns were raised about the law being used politically.

"Even though it passed (the Senate) unanimously, there were some concerns it could be used in a political way (to remove an elected official from office)," Stadelman said.

Safeguards were put in place to prevent that from happening, Stadelman said. Those included approval by a supermajority vote by the county board and review by the State's Attorney's Office and a judge.

Locked out: Winnebago County Board chairman locks out coroner accused of stealing

Vella said the bill likely will be lumped together with other bills as part of a larger package.

"There was a lot of excitement about it," he said. "We'll come back again for the veto session, sometime in the fall. That's when things are supposed to move."

The legislation was drafted by State’s Attorney J. Hanley and came at the request of County Board Chairman Joe Chiarelli.

"The importance of this bill is for taxpayer protection," Chiarelli said. "So, hopefully, ... they can move the bill forward."

Chris Green: 815-397-6412; cgreen@rrstar.com; @chrisfgreen

This article originally appeared on Rockford Register Star: Illinois SB 3460 on elected officials charged with crimes fails