Probation officers, court workers sue St. Clair County officials over board's budget cuts

By Record News | Apr 17, 2019

BELLEVILLE – St. Clair County’s board adopted a budget that would have harmed probation officers and court workers in four other counties, according to a suit their union filed in chancery court. 

Local 4408 of Illinois Federation of Public Employees in Springfield, which gained a temporary order against the budget in December, seeks to make it permanent. 

Attorneys Tom Keefe and Van-Lear Eckert filed the union’s suit on Dec. 12, naming county treasurer Andrew Lopinot as lead defendant. 

The union also sued county board chairman Mark Kern, the county, Chief Circuit Judge Andrew Gleeson, and the circuit. 


According to the suit, state law allows counties in a circuit to share salaries and expenses of a single probation and court services department, with the most populous county administering the department. As the most populous, St. Clair County submits costs to the Supreme Court, and then divides the reimbursement among the counties. 

The suit further states that Randolph, Monroe, Washington and Perry counties submit their proportion of the department’s costs on an annual basis. But, on Nov. 26, the St. Clair county board passed a budget that stripped funding for Local 4408 probation officers working in the other four counties.  

The budget prevented Lopinot from paying salary and benefits in violation of a collective bargaining agreement. 

Local 4408, which identifies itself as an affiliate of American Federation of Teachers,

argues that St. Clair County has no budgetary authority over its members but merely holds funds in trust as a fiduciary. 

The Local further claims that Randolph, Monroe, Washington and Perry counties have always paid in full and continue to pay in full, and seeks an order requiring Lopinot to pay salaries and benefits in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement. 

Members ask for a finding that Gleeson had sole authority to authorize payment. 

Associate Judge Julie Katz granted a temporary restraining order the day suit was filed. 

On Dec. 20, assistant Illinois attorney general Anupama Paruchuri wrote that Gleeson and the 20th Circuit didn’t object to a preliminary injunction. 

“However, they advise the court that a preliminary injunction is unlikely to apply directly to them, as they do not actually enact or implement St. Clair County’s budget,” Paruchuri wrote. 

Gleeson asked the Supreme Court for an outside judge, and Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier ordered First Circuit Chief Judge James Williamson to assign one. 

Williamson picked associate judge Todd Lambert of Harrisburg. 

Lambert signed a preliminary injunction on Jan. 8, finding the parties agreed to preserve the status quo until the case can be decided on the merits. 

He wrote that no one admitted or denied any of the facts that the court would eventually determine. 

He held a hearing on a permanent injunction on Feb. 28, but issued no order. 

As of April 16, he hadn’t set a date for further proceedings.    

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