SPRINGFIELD – Attorney General Lisa Madigan is asking the Illinois Supreme Court to put her in charge of the comptroller.
Madigan continues to represent comptroller Leslie Munger without Munger’s consent, seeking orders Munger would rather not follow.
On Monday, Madigan filed a motion for direct appeals of court orders on payment of state employees.
“As the officer tasked by the Illinois Constitution with processing payments of public funds, the comptroller needs this court’s guidance,” deputy solicitor general Brett Legner wrote.
Legner wrote that Munger sent staff counsel to a hearing in St. Clair County and filed a motion to disqualify Madigan.
“Although the court took that matter under advisement, it allowed the comptroller’s unauthorized counsel to present their arguments, which included declining to join in any of the state’s arguments and thus purporting to waive sovereign immunity,” he wrote.
“Based on the positions taken by the comptroller’s unauthorized counsel, the circuit court dismissed the state as a defendant, but not the comptroller, on sovereign immunity grounds.”
He wrote that although the court dismissed the state, the state maintains standing to appeal because it has a direct, immediate and substantial interest.
Legner quoted from a 1992 decision that, “The Attorney General has a common law duty to protect the public purse as a matter of general welfare.”
“These appeals are a matter of great public concern that invoke basic questions regarding the constitutional role of the branches of government in expending public funds,” he wrote.
The General Assembly passed a budget bill but on June 25, Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed all of it except education.
The fiscal year ended June 30, with no budget for the year ahead.
Leaders of state employee unions told members to continue reporting to work.
On July 1, Madigan filed a complaint for injunctive relief against Munger in Cook County, on behalf of the people.
Madigan argued that in the absence of an appropriation, the state must follow federal wage law and pay everyone the minimum, $7.25 an hour.
On July 2, ten unions filed a complaint for injunctive relief against Munger in St. Clair County.
They argued that failure to process the normal payroll would impair a contract in violation of the Illinois Constitution.
On July 7, Cook County Circuit Judge Diane Larsen signed a temporary restraining order calling for a minimum wage payroll.
On July 8, Munger and Rauner’s central management agency obtained a stay of the order from First District appellate judges in Chicago.
On July 9, in St. Clair County, lawyers for Madigan and Munger tussled in front of Circuit Judge Robert LeChien.
At one point LeChien said he’d step out and they could talk with each other.
He took under advisement Munger’s motion to disqualify Madigan, saying he would not decide something that might not need to be decided.
He said he wasn’t sure he saw a conflict of interest, but throughout the hearing he kept asking Munger’s lawyers to explain it to him.
They kept taking the same positions as union counsel Stephen Yokich of Chicago.
LeChien ordered Munger to process the usual payroll.
Madigan appealed to Fifth District appellate judges in Mount Vernon, then asked the Supreme Court to skip that step and hear direct appeals of both orders.
Legner wrote that the matter needs expedited consideration because resolution would impact all of state government.
He minimized Munger’s role as, “only the final step in the payment process.”
“All state offices and agencies that rely on public funds initially determine what funds to obligate then present vouchers to the comptroller for processing,” he wrote.
“The Court’s determination of whether full payroll can be paid despite the lack of an enacted budget bill will affect those decisions.”
He wrote that the General Assembly and Rauner “need clarity as to the background against which they act when deciding to enact or not to enact appropriations.”