ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) – Theft, forgery and official misconduct charges facing Winnebago County Coroner Bill Hintz stirs frustration among local leaders and taxpayers, over his ability to stay in that role.
Now, some state lawmakers push to give more leverage to community governments to temporarily remove elected officials.
There is a law in Illinois that allows state officials like Governors, Senators and Representatives to be temporarily removed from office over misconduct charges.
Sen. Dave Syverson says Senate Bill 3460 could close the loophole for County and Township elected leaders.
“That’s the main part of this law is that we don’t have to wait until someone’s actually convicted which as you all here know can take months if not years,” said Winnebago County State’s Attorney J. Hanley.
Multiples levels of government all coming together to back Senate Bill 3460, giving local municipalities the tools they need to protect citizens when elected officials are charged with crimes.
“We have to maintain integrity, in these offices in Winnebago County and the entire state of Illinois that was why I did what I did with the current Coroner because the integrity was not there any longer,” said Winnebago County Chairman Joseph Chiarelli.
An issue local officials saw play out with Winnebago County Coroner Bill Hintz who continued to serve while facing criminal charges. It’s what fueled the filing of this legislation.
“And yet, here in Illinois, right now, there’s nothing you can do, that elected gets to keep their job and I can’t tell you how many times during this ordeal, I would hear how is that possible, how is that possible, how can this person keep their job,” Hanley said.
“Most of us were surprised that will all the safeguards and laws that we have in place that this was a loophole or one area that hadn’t been addressed,” Syverson said.
Moving forward, lawmakers hope this law could better protect Illinois taxpayers.
“I think you see polls show that public trust in government and institutions is probably at an all time low for a number of different reasons, this will help ensure the trust remains,” said Senator Steve Stadelman.
“This is just a tool in our toolbelt and we all standing here hope that we never have to use this and hopefully this law will pass and it never is an issue,” Hanley said.
The bill is sponsored by several Democrats and Republicans and received input from area State’s Attorneys. To go into effect, it would need to be passed by both the State Senate and House of Representatives.
67th District Rep. Maurice West of Rockford co-sponsored the bill, he says the goal is to get it passed by May, the end of the spring session.
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