ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — A new bill could allow local governments to penalize elected officials while in office if they have been charged with a crime.
A county board could vote to place an elected official on administrative leave under the proposed law. This comes after Winnebago County Coroner Bill Hintz was charged with multiple felony theft and misconduct charges. Prosecutors said that Hintz and his wife spent nearly $16,000 on government funds. However, since Illinois does not allow for elected officials to be recalled, Hintz was placed on administrative leave.
Hintz refused to comment when asked about the bill. He is technically still the Winnebago County Coroner and is still being paid, despite not currently acting in that role. Members of the Winnebago County Board said that there is limited power as to what they can do to remove Hintz.
“Here in Illinois, there is nothing you can do. That elected gets to keep their job,” said Winnebago County State’s Attorney J. Hanley.
It is a hurdle that local leaders are trying to address with the newly introduced bipartisan legislation.
“This legislation as it was described, it gives us a tool to remove an elected to put them on administrative leave if they’ve been charged with a crime, particularly a crime that directly related to their job,” Hanley said.
The steps are as follows: A county board would vote to place an elected official on leave. The case would go to the State’s Attorney if approved, and the circuit court would make the final decision.
Hanley said that the bill comes as a direct response to Hintz being charged with theft, after he allegedly misused a county credit card and stole from the deceased and their families.
“So here we are with Mr. Hintz, he’s been charged with a crime,” Hanley said. “Yes, he’s presumed innocent, but he’s been charged with a crime, and as the law currently stands, he can not be removed legally.”
Hintz makes more than $100,000 a year, including benefits, according to public records. He is not allowed on county property and can not perform any work related duties, but will continue getting paid.
“We don’t wanna take anyone’s rights away, we just want to protect the integrity of those office holders’ offices and we want to make sure the public is served at the highest capacity that they can be,” said Winnebago County Chairman Joe Chiarelli.
“If he’s ultimately convicted, then he’ll be removed from office and we won’t pay him anymore,” Hanley added.
Hintz will remain on leave until his six pending criminal cases are resolved.