Illinois’ Mental Health Bill Approved to Validate Referenda Passages without Property Tax Extension Limitation Law Language

Jack Cunningham

Written by John Lopez

How the Kane County Clerk’s Enforcement of the PTELL caused the Illinois General Assembly to write new legislation after winning in court three times (once at Appellate level)

In the waning days of the 2022 spring session, the Illinois General Assembly passed SB 3215, “Mental Health Validation Act“.

The legislation, which passed unanimously in the Illinois Senate on February 23, was taken up in the Illinois House on Wednesday, March 30, and passed by a vote of 76 to 38.

This proposal, if signed into law by Gov. JB Pritzker, will “validate” referenda to create a 708 Mental Health Board, under the Community Mental Health Act but without Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) language legal retroactive to January 1, 1994.

Once signed into law, the 708 Mental Health Boards created by referendum going back to the beginning of 1994 up to the date of the law’s enactment, will be validated and exempt from PTELL.

Going forward, beginning with Mental Health Boards created from June 28, 2022, forward, PTELL language must be included on the ballot.

The law attempts to validate at least 4 township-level 708 Mental Health Boards created through referendum going back to 2017.  The four largest townships to pass referenda are within the collar counties of DuPage and Kane counties.

They are, in order of referendum passage:

  • Bloomingdale Township (DuPage County) in April 2017
  • Dundee Township (Kane County) in March 2020
  • Elgin Township (Kane County) in March 2020
  • Milton Township (DuPage County) in April 2021

State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) is the chief sponsor of SB 3215, but much of the process, including over 6 months of litigation in Kane County, was promulgated by Kane County Clerk John “Jack” Cunningham (R-Aurora), who’s consistently enforced PTELL during his 5 terms as the county clerk, through the county clerk’s tax extension responsibility.

The focus of the changes resulting by Cunningham’s actions revolve around Dundee Township, which passed its 708 Mental Health Board referendum, using language from the Community Mental Health Act on March 17, 2020, by vote count of 4,688 in favor, and 2,489 against.

Trish Glees

With the passage of the referendum in March of 2020, the Dundee Township Board, under the leadership of Patricia “Trish” Glees (I-West Dundee), appointed the initial 7-member township 708 Mental Health Board as required by law to staggered terms, with Glees naming herself as the Township Board representative to the 708 Board, for a 4-year term.

The 708 Board could not begin to receive funding until 2021, so the Board did what it could do until the 2020 property tax bills were collected in 2021.

On December 22, 2020, the Township Board passed the initial levy for the 708 Board totaling $3,027,650.

The quadrennial township elections took place in April of 2021, with Supervisor Glees being challenged for reelection to a 2nd term by Arin Thrower (I-West Dundee), with Thrower winning the election against Glees, who ran for reelection as a Democrat, and Republicans had a 3-1-1 majority on the newly elected Township Board.

In Elgin Township, the 5-member all Democratic Board members were swept out-of-office by Republicans, completely flipping the Township Board to a Republican supervisor and 4 Republican trustees.

On Friday of the week of the April 2021, elections, the Kane County clerk’s office notified both Dundee and Elgin townships concerning the 708 Board’s levy for 2020 property taxes in email concerning the property tax computation:

“Our State’s Attorney recommended against extending the Mental Health Fund because the language on the referendum was not the language required by PTELL”

The fuse was lit and the firestorm in April of 2021 exploded.

Lame duck Democrat supervisors cry foul, cite voter suppression at the order delivered by county clerk preventing tax extension of levy for 708 mental health boards on 2020 property tax bills

Jamie Mosser

The Kane County state’s attorney’s office (KCSAO), under the leadership of Jamie Mosser (D-St. Charles) instructed the Kane County clerk’s office to not, through the tax extension office, extend a tax levy for the 708 mental health boards approved by the voters in Dundee and Elgin townships in separate referendum questions in March of 2020.

The ruling by the KCSAO was due to the two townships, in drafting the referendum questions, did not use the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL). Instead, both township boards used the Community Mental Health Act as their legal reference.

According to the Chicago Tribune:

“Kane County Clerk’s Office and Dundee Township officials exchanged a series of emails in which they sparred over the legality of the referendum that authorized creation of the township’s 708 Mental Health Board and whether the clerk could legally collect taxes on its behalf.

“Clerk John ‘Jack’ Cunningham took the matter to the state’s attorney’s office and was advised not to extend the tax levy for Dundee Township or for Elgin Township, where voters also approved a 708 board in the same March 2020 election.”

Chicago Tribune“Battle over tax collection for 708 boards in Elgin and Dundee townships boils down to differing referendum laws”, 4/15/21

The actual referendum question, approved by Dundee Township voters by 4,688-2,489 margin reads below:

“Shall Dundee Township levy an annual tax of not to exceed .15% for the purpose of providing community mental health facilities and services including facilities and services for the person with a developmental disability or a substance use disorder?”

Actual Dundee Township referendum question approved on 12/18/19 by 5-0 vote of township board

Outgoing Dundee Supervisor Glees let loose on social media over the clerk executing the KCSAO’s advice:

“This is purely suppression of the will of the residents who voted for the 708 mental board.”

Trish Glees, Facebook reply

Dundee Township Assessor Mike Bielak (R-Algonquin), who also chairs the Dundee Township Republican Organization (DTRO), commented on the development:

“Trish Glees is wrong citing the people voted for it and passed it. The people voted for something they were not fully informed about.

“PTELL law covers that and specifically requires ballot language that estimates what it would cost a taxpayer who owns a home in the taxing district.

“Shame on Trish.

“The people were not correctly informed. End of story.

“The referendum will have to be voted on again to hope to levy a tax.”

Mike Bielak, 4/15/21

Lame duck Dundee Township Board votes to pursue “minimal legal action” litigation against Kane County clerk

On April 21, the Dundee Township Board of Trustees was the first public meeting since County Clerk Cunningham’s decision to not extend the levy.

At the ZOOM township meeting, over 50 speakers spoke, and additional correspondence read into the record.

The vast majority of speakers were advocates for the 708 Mental Health Board and urged the Township Board to pursue litigation against County Clerk Cunningham.

After all of the public comment, Glees moved to go immediately into executive session to discuss the pending litigation.

After the meeting reconvened about half hour later, the motion was made to Approve to take Minimal Legal Action against the Kane County Clerk.

The vote of the 5-member board was 3 yeas, 1 nay and 1 abstention.

Two of the 3 votes in favor of litigation were from board members whose terms ended in May so the 3-1-1 vote to pursue the litigation included two lame duck members.

Democrat Kane County state’s attorney gives vigorous defense of Republican county clerk

Within hours after the Township Board’s vote, the regular monthly meeting of the Kane County Public Service Committee, which oversees several offices including the county clerk, met the following morning.

During public comment, the Committee was advised of the Dundee Township Board’s action the previous night approving the pursuit of litigation against the county.

The county clerk was represented at the Committee meeting by one of his subordinates, and the county clerk’s report was late in the meeting.

During the report of the treasurer’s office, the Committee was informed that 2020 property tax bills, payable in 2021, were at the printer and would be mailed out on April 30, payments due June 1 and September 1.

Meaning, even if Dundee Township was successful at litigation it was too late to include the tax extension for payment at the first installment due date.

By the time the county clerk’s portion had been reported with discussion about Elgin and Dundee townships issues deferred, Kane County State’s Attorney Jamie Mosser had arrived in person at the County Board’s Committee meeting, to give her office’s input.

The Committee, on a divided vote, went into executive session to discuss the pending litigation.

The Committee reconvened in open session after an hour and the committee chairman asked State’s Attorney Mosser to give her opening statement from executive session in open session, for the record.

As Mosser cited during her remarks, the PTELL was adjudicated and set a legal precedent for the county clerk denying a tax extension for a levy not using the PTELL language.

The suit was a Kane County case from 2015: Hampshire Township Road District v. John A. Cunningham, in his Official Capacity as the Kane County Clerk. Here are the main events of the suit:

  • Township annual meeting held a referendum by petition at the 2014 annual town meeting, levying permanent road tax (PRT). Meeting, attended by 19 electors, unanimously approved the referendum.
  • County clerk refused to implement the levy from the annual town meeting referendum of 2014.
  • Hampshire Township Road District filed suit on April 24, 2015.
  • County clerk moved for summary judgement on June 4, 2015.
  • Clerk’s summary judgement granted on August 13, 2015.
  • Road district appealed to the 2nd District Appellate Court in Elgin on June 9, 2016.
  • Appellate Court Affirmed the Circuit Court ruling of summary judgement for the Kane County clerk on August 1, 2016.

The entire Appellate Court ruling can be viewed here.

Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham had already won twice in court enforcing PTELL in the face of litigation, and Dundee Township presented the 3rd legal fight over PTELL.

Kane County clerk wins 3rd time in court enforcing PTELL as Kane County state’s attorney successfully defend legal challenge from Dundee Township

On the afternoon of November 22, Kane County Circuit Judge Kevin Busch issued his ruling in the 16th Judicial Circuit for Dundee Township v John A (Jack) Cunningham, in his official capacity as Kane County Clerk over his office’s decision, with advise of the Kane County State’s Attorney, to not extend property taxes after the successful passage of a 708 Mental Health Board for Dundee Township referendum during the 2020 primary election.

As expected, the lack of referendum question language as required by the PTELL, which was Appellate Court affirmed Case Law from a 2015 decision was the overriding precedent cited by Judge Busch.

The Township, represented by Ancel Glink, cited the 2021 decision against McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio mandating a county clerk’s role with referendum questions is purely ministerial, and not subject to the clerk’s interpretation of Illinois law.

The Judge ruled the context of the McHenry County case was solely under election law, and not property tax extension.

Arin Thrower

Day after Kane County judge’s ruling, Mental Health Board validation bill filed in the Illinois House, but Dundee Township voted against a Mental Health levy for 2021

Whether on cue after the judge ruled in favor of the Kane County clerk or by coincidence, the Illinois House version of the Mental Health Validation Act was filed with the House clerk the following day by state Representative Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea).

With the legislation filed and with assurances from the Democratic supermajority in Springfield it would pass it during the abbreviated spring session, the Dundee Township Mental Health Board demanded Supervisor Arin Thrower and the Township Board pass a mental health property tax levy in December of 2021 to fund the Mental Health Board, in anticipation of the bill’s passage.

On December 15, the Township Board, in spite of the pressure from the Mental Health Board, voted against a $1.5 million levy for 2021 by a 4-1 vote, with the lone Democratic trustee voting in favor.

The Illinois Senate version of the bill was filed in mid-January and was amended to include an end-date for the validation, meaning mental health board referenda going forward, including the Lisle Township (DuPage County) referendum later this year, must include PTELL language.

The amended bill is now headed to Governor Pritzker’s desk for his signature.

John Lopez has written about policy and elections through the McHenry County Blog since 2019. He is now semi-retired, and does freelance work with analytics, as well as political candidates, emphasizing policy as the means to advance the conservative message, by engaging through policy “dog fighting”, applying discernment for winning and advancing God’s Kingdom agenda.

John’s known for getting past the talking points, the narratives, the abstracts, the platitudes and the bromides in order to discuss policy and apply Scripture to overcome unholy divisions in the local community, our state, and nation.

John has been married for over 16 years.