Copas: Public health department must serve us, not them

By ROD COPAS / Iroquois County Board chairman

As sitting Iroquois County Board chairman, I want to take this opportunity to address the issues surrounding the Iroquois County position in regard to public health.

First of all, I want to say public health — as required by law — is here to stay. However, as Iroquois County funds 68 percent of the local tax revenue received by the Ford-Iroquois Public Health Department, it is our duty as elected officials to monitor the activities of the board of health and make recommendations concerning those activities according to the joint resolution.

Specifically speaking, the issue at hand is in regard of the taxpayers of Iroquois County funding and providing services outside the jurisdiction of the Ford and Iroquois counties’ joint resolution.

The joint resolution agreement between Ford and Iroquois counties, dated March 11, 1980, and signed by both counties, reads as follows: “Ford-Iroquois Public Health Department is to serve the public health needs of the people of Ford and Iroquois counties” (pursuant to Illinois State Statute and law).

Iroquois County officials first became aware of the situation after being questioned by concerned taxpayers in the latter months of 2012. From that point forward, several meetings were held with public health board officials to express Iroquois County’s concerns of costs, liabilities and legalities.

In spite of Iroquois County’s objections and without addressing any of Iroquois County’s concerns, the public health board continued to move forward with its proposed plan.

The process for expanding services and looking at Indiana as a “source of revenue” was flawed from the beginning. In July of 2012, the Ford-Iroquois Public Health Board voted to approve the expenditures of our tax dollars in Indiana (outside of their geographical jurisdiction) without notification or knowledge of any kind to the Iroquois County Board. Contributing to this flawed decision was the fact the health board sought no legal counsel before approving expenses or understanding their legal limitations prior to proposed expansion. Before any taxpayer dollars were spent, the legal questions should have been answered.

This legal service is provided to the public health board at no charge by both state’s attorneys. As a result of not seeking this free legal advice, the taxpayer dollars of Ford and Iroquois counties have been spent in Indiana.

Those tax dollars are gone and are not recoverable.

Local government does not have any authority that is not granted them by the Illinois Legislature. Taxpayer funds do not constitute an open checkbook. The spending of our tax dollars outside our jurisdiction violates the Ford-Iroquois county joint resolution and Illinois state statutes.

Iroquois County is committed to efficiently utilizing taxpayer funds in providing public health to the residents of Ford and Iroquois counties. We will work with all parties to ensure public health is provided in a responsible, legal, and accountable form.

It is essential that public officials — be they elected or appointed — serve within the parameters of the law and be held accountable for all their actions.

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joearnold wrote on February 10, 2013 at 8:02 pm

A sufficient act by the law to look forward the statement of public health which is for everyone and volunteers may accept the offers to have an emergency training and satisfied for what they are doing.