NEWS

County Board says no to McHugh's conditional resignation

John Pulliam/Aledo Times Record

The chairman of the Mercer County Board on Aug. 4 rejected the conditional resignation of State's Attorney Greg McHugh. McHugh said Aug. 6 he made his resignation conditional because he wanted to ensure a legitimate Democrat would be nominated by the county board chairman.

In an interview with the Times Record, McHugh explained without conditions, Anseeuw could have nominated someone other than the choice of the Mercer County Central Committee's precinct committeemen.

"He could and that is why I had that condition," McHugh said.

The state's attorney said his concern was the 2012 Republican candidate for Mercer County state's attorney ran a couple of times in Rock Island County as a Democrat.

"The chairman is a very staunch Republican and works with the Republicans, including their most recent nominee for state's attorney. I didn't basically want what I consider to be a fake (Democrat) to take my position," McHugh said.

In a letter dated July 31 to Anseeuw, McHugh wrote that, at age 65, he is looking at retirement.

"Thus my sole condition to make this resignation effective is that you (Anseeuw) both nominate and vote for the qualified nominee who is a resident of Mercer County recommended by Mercer County Democratic Central Committee."

State statute requires McHugh's successor to be an appointee of his political party.

"Upon your written acceptance of the above condition you can declare a vacancy exists, notify the Central Committee to submit their nominee for Board approval and fill the position within sixty days," McHugh wrote.

He added his letter was also an attempt to remind the board of the election law.

During the board meeting, Joe Vann, R-District 4 and vice chairman of the County Board, said there is no provision in the state's county code for a conditional resignation.

"What he is asking us to do, he won't sign off until his replacement is picked," Vann said. "This is a violation of state election law."

Gary Gregg, D-Dist. 2, disagreed.

"All he's asking for is a consideration to be made," Gregg said.

Gregg disputed Vann's statement that McHugh is "asking, basically, to pick his replacement. If he hasn't resigned, there's no vacancy."

McHugh disagreed with Vann.

"If he (Anseeuw) accepted the condition, then he could have declared a vacancy," McHugh said. "If you accept the condition, then I've resigned."

He said that action could have been taken during the County Board meeting. McHugh said he is not attempting to pick his own replacement.

"The board can elect who they want to elect and the Democrats can nominate whoever they want as long as they (the nominee) are qualified," he explained.

As for any violation of election law, he cited a 1978 Supreme Court case of the City of Chicago v Patrick O'Malley. In its notes as the case applied to municipal corporations, the court wrote the Regional Transportation Authority's resignation "required some act of acceptance by the mayor to make it acceptable." The court cited this as a conditional resignation.

The court wrote the RTA director's statement indicated an "intent" to tender a resignation. McHugh said his letter indicated intent, with the act to make it official being the board chairman agreeing to his condition.

Told Vann mentioned the court had ruled, but in a municipal, not a county case, the state's attorney took exception.

"It's the election code," McHugh said. "Joe Vann works very hard and when he gives the board his legal opinion, he's right about half the time."

Matt Sorensen of Bellwether Management and Consulting offered to step in during the board's discussion.

"Bellwether would be happy to visit with Mr. McHugh to make sure it's not simply a wording thing," Sorensen said.

"I would reject it on the basis it's a conditional resignation," Anseeuw said.

Asked what his next move will be, McHugh said, "maybe if the chairman understood a little better, because maybe I didn't explain it well enough, we can revisit the issue."

McHugh, who has been in office for 15 years, was elected to a fourth term in 2012. The position will be up for election in November 2016.

The state's attorney presaged the reaction to his letter, when he wrote, "While we have had our differences in the past, (emphasis added) I do appreciate all the time you have devoted to the citizens of Mercer County."