Mercer County sues state

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

Mercer County on Friday, Nov. 20, followed through with its promise to sue the State of Illinois. The two-count complaint asks for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction forcing the state to pay the salaries of the state's attorney, public defender and supervisor of assessments. The county also wants to be reimbursed for those salaries _ paid by the county _ since July 1, 2015.

State law requires the state to pay the salaries of those three officials. Mercer County has been paying them to avoid a hardship for the employees.

"If the county follows the law the State must follow the law," said Mercer County State's Attorney Gregory McHugh in a news release. "By December Mercer County will be in an over $120,000 budget deficit just on these three salaries. Our Board has struggled mightily to balance a budget without any layoffs and now the State plays the county for its own purpose. They apparently are playing the same game on gas taxes collected here and sent to Springfield."

Specifically, the state's director of revenue and comptroller are being sued. According to the release from McHugh's office, the state has already lost in court in St. Clair County on the same issue.

"I would hope every (county) in Illinois sues the State to force them to follow the law," McHugh said.

Mercer County alleges that in July of this year, "the State, using the excuse of contrived budget political fight stopped paying Mercer County. Since then, Mercer County has struggled mightily with its relatively small budget and has used its other funds to pay the salaries as mandated by law."

The lawsuit alleges, "Not withstanding the lack of budgetary appropriations, the State has sufficient funds to pay the State's Attorney, Public Defender and Supervisor of Assessments, who all continue to work and get paid.

"The plaintiff (Mercer County) will have no option but to lay off other employees to maintain payment to these officers," the complaint continues.

The Mercer County Board earlier approved proceeding with the lawsuit.