Peoria County argues to dissolve auditor’s office to Illinois Appellate Court

Jessica Thomas is sworn in as Peoria County Auditor after getting elected in 2018.
Jessica Thomas is sworn in as Peoria County Auditor after getting elected in 2018.(WEEK)
Published: Jan. 6, 2023 at 10:38 AM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PEORIA (25 News Now) - Attorneys representing Peoria County against Auditor Jessica Thomas submitted their arguments in a brief to the appellate court Wednesday, arguing voters decided to eliminate the office on Election Day and to keep it funded would violate their rights.

It’s the latest step in a continued legal battle over the office’s fate. After nearly 70% of voters chose to eliminate the office, current auditor Jessica Thomas sought a preliminary injunction to keep her position until the end of her elected term in 2024. The court granted that preliminary injunction, meaning Thomas has kept her office and her pay until the matter is decided.

In the 23-page written argument, attorneys focus on proving that auditor Jessica Thomas has no standing to bring the suit forward in the first place. They also assert that continuing this litigation is costing taxpayers even more, paying for Thomas’ salary for the attorney’s legal fees as well as those of the county defending the case.

In her lawsuit, Thomas argues the referendum’s language was unconstitutionally vague. The attorneys for the county, however, say she is calling something unconstitutional for voters within her official capacity as an elected official. That, they believe, invalidates the argument.

“Plaintiffs cannot pursue an injunction premised on the protection of rights that belong to others,” the brief reads, and further argues the court should resolve conflicts between parties and not “cases brought on behalf of others who may not desire judicial aid.’”

The county asserts voters are not objecting to the referendum, and Thomas cannot argue for voter’s rights when she is bringing forward the complaint in her position as an elected official and not a voter.

Thomas’s case also asserts the referendum did not include an end date for the office, which also made it vague. But the county’s attorney site extensive case law and the Illinois Constitution which provides for the elimination of offices by law, including the auditor’s office without being date specific.

That, the county argues offends voters’ intelligence. Voters, they argue can or should be able to reasonably assume that an office will be eliminated after the vote.

From here, Thomas’s attorney will submit their brief arguing on her behalf. A final decision is up to the timing of the 4th District Appellate Court.