Peoria Co. Auditor: ‘I won a four-year term,’ vows to fight appellate court decision

Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 5:07 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25News Now) - Peoria County Auditor Jessica Thomas and her attorney are vowing to fight the Illinois Appellate Court’s decision that she has no right to finish her four-year term.

Justice Kathryn Zenoff delivered the opinion, reversing a previous court’s decision to grant a preliminary injunction on the decision to get rid of the auditor’s office.

Zenoff writes that Thomas’ right to office disappeared as soon as voters chose to get rid of it.

Voters overwhelmingly decided to eliminate her office in November 2022. Since then, there’s been a prolonged legal battle over the language and timing of the referendum between Thomas and the county.

Thomas sought and won the preliminary injunction to allow her to finish out her term, which has now been reversed.

“I won a four-year term in 2020,” Thomas said over the phone. “My name was not on the ballot in 2022 when voters decided [to eliminate the office.]”

“One election should not negate the other,” she continued.

She and her attorney have vowed to appeal the decision.

“We are disappointed at the latest, but not last, decision,” her attorney Justin Penn said. “The appellate court decided the issue based solely on a case that none of the attorneys raised or argued in the appeal.”

“Jessica has a very strong argument for her appeal,” he said.

25News contacted the Peoria County State’s Attorney, who represented the county in this case. We have not heard back as of 5 p.m.

Thomas’ attorney argued the referendum language was vague and didn’t provide a timeline on when her office should be dissolved. The court disagreed, citing previous referenda argued in the court.

“The referendum here was straightforward,” Zenoff wrote. “Even absent an express statement of its [timeline], the referendum was sufficiently clear to be valid.”

State law does establish a four-year term for county and municipal offices, but also allows for that term to be changed via a county-wide referendum. The court believes the referendum eliminating the office also effectively ended Thomas’ term early.

“We are unconvinced the referendum allowed plaintiff to serve out the remainder of her term,” the court wrote.