Who can Chair a Township Board Meeting in the Absence of the Supervisor?
On occasion the supervisor is not available to chair a township board meeting, either due to illness, business or personal reasons. The question then becomes who chairs the regularly scheduled monthly township meeting if the supervisor is absent?
Contrary to the belief of many supervisors, the supervisor cannot appoint the clerk or a trustee to chair a township board meeting in their absence. There is no statutory authority for the supervisor to appoint someone to chair the meeting in his/her absence. Unfortunately, the Township Code (hereinafter the "Code") provides no specific guidance with respect to appointing a chair for township board meetings when the supervisor is absent. However, various provisions of the Code, when read together, make it clear that it is a corporate decision of the board to select one of its members to chair the meeting. It should be noted that the person who is appointed to chair a township board meeting is only chairing the meeting and does not assume any of the other powers of the supervisor.
The Code clearly defines the township board as a board of five members, consisting of four trustees and the supervisor. The Code also provides that the supervisor is the chairman of the board. 60 ILCS Ann. 1/80-5(a).
Although the Code provides no specific guidance as to the process for appointing a temporary chairman of the board in the absence of the supervisor, it does grant the board authority to fill vacancies on the board, to include the position of supervisor. The Code also grants township boards the power to establish rules as to how they, as a board, operate. The board can draft and create its own rules, or as many boards have done, adopt Roberts Rules. It should be remembered that the township board is the corporate authority of the township and consists of five voting members, four trustees and the supervisor, all with an equal vote. The Code specifically states as follows:
(d) The township board may adopt rules not inconsistent with this Code to govern its meetings. The rules may provide for excused absences of the supervisor or trustees from township board meetings. 60 ILCS 1/80-10
The board clearly has the authority to adopt rules that provide for a process to appoint a board member to chair township board meetings when the supervisor is absent. The board could also adopt Roberts Rules for running its board meetings and follow procedures in Roberts Rules for selecting a chair. The only limitation on Roberts Rules, or any to rules adopted by the board, is that they are not inconsistent with the Code, or other state law. The power to appoint a temporary chairman to chair a meeting rests solely with the township board and not the supervisor.
Roberts Rules provide specific process for the selection of a meeting chairman in the absence of the regular chairman. First and foremost, Roberts Rules provide that the chairman cannot select her replacement. The board must vote to select the acting chair from the board’s existing members. Below you will find the provision in Roberts Rules which describes the process for appointing a person to chair the meeting:
But the regular chairman, knowing that he will be absent from a future meeting, cannot authorize another member to act in his place at such meeting; the secretary, or, in his absence, some other member should in such case call the meeting to order, and a chairman pro tem. be elected who would hold office during that session, unless such office is terminated by the entrance of the president or a vice president, or by the election of another chairman pro tem., which may be done by a majority vote.
Article X § 58.
If your board has decided to follow Roberts Rules, they should also follow the provisions found in Roberts Rules for the selection of a chairman pro tem.
I am of the opinion that the appointment of the clerk to act as chairman is invalid, not only based upon the supervisor’s lack of authority to make such an appointment, but also because it is outside the scope of duties the clerk is to perform. In addition, the clerk has a specific duty at township board meetings, to take the minutes. It would appear that acting as the chairman of the meeting would interfere, if not conflict, with the clerk performing his statutory duties. The clerk’s duties are clear:
The township clerk shall act as clerk of the township board and shall record the proceedings of each meeting of the board in a book which he or she shall provide for that purpose at the expense of the township. The record shall include all certificates of accounts audited by the board. 60 ILCS 1/80-45
It also should be noted that the clerk cannot vote at township board meetings (except to break a tie to fill a vacancy).
In summary, the township board has the duty to elect a meeting chairman in the absence of the supervisor. If the board has not adopted rules prior to a meeting where the supervisor is absent, the township clerk must open the meeting and call for nominations of a board member to chair the meeting. The board then must elect one of its members to chair the meeting.