By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
PITTSFIELD, Ill. — The Pike County Board took a stand Monday on concealed carry.
Board members adopted a resolution recognizing "the right of the people to keep and bear arms and further that the right shall not be infringed as stated in the United States Constitution."
The 5-2 vote drew a standing ovation from the crowd packed into the upstairs courtroom in the courthouse in Pittsfield, but the resolution serves as an opinion and not law.
State's Attorney Carrie Boyd earlier this year advised the board to not adopt an ordinance before the Illinois General Assembly acts on the issue, telling them an ordinance proposed by board member Dan Mefford was "unenforceable at best and unconstitutional at worst."
Board members were told in May by an attorney representing the Illinois Counties Risk Management Trust, the county's insurers, that the county would put itself at risk if it passed the proposed right to carry ordinance. Michael Victor with Chicago firm O'Halloran Kosoff Geitner and Cook, which serves as general counsel for ICRMT, said passing the ordinance will expose the county to enormous legal liability.
That warning prompted supporters to scale back the ordinance to the resolution, but Boyd said insurers look at an ordinance and a resolution the same way.
"An ordinance is a law. A resolution is a sense of board opinion," countered board member Michael Boren, who supported the resolution.
Some in the audience hoped to win more support from Boyd, especially when other state's attorneys have said they won't prosecute concealed carry cases. In a county like Pike, which supported a gun rights referendum, "we need you, Carrie," Rick Rodhouse said, drawing more applause from the audience.
Resolving to do something on the issue could prompt insurers to write an exclusion on the policy, meaning the county would bear all the costs involved in any lawsuits. "I don't think they will write an exclusion, but they could," said Finance Committee Chairman Jim Sheppard, who voted against the resolution.
"Win lose or draw on this resolution, it is my intent that when my children and grandchildren ask 'What did you do to preserve liberty for us?', I can say, 'I stood to the best of my ability,'" Mefford said. "The important thing is the County Board has made a statement."
Mefford wants to see a committee continue to meet on the issues and get the consensus of board members on taking more action in the future.
"We still have to wait and see what the state does. They passed a bill for concealed carry, but the governor hasn't signed it," Board Chairman Andy Borrowman said. "It's still a waiting game. He may veto it."
Mefford initially proposed a right to carry ordinance in February after the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the state's ban on concealed weapons unconstitutional.
In other action, the County Board:
• Learned the Labor Committee met with county officeholders prior to the board meeting to discuss the ongoing contract talks with courthouse and government building employees. State's Attorney Carrie Boyd was asked to get more information from the Illinois Department of Labor. Another meeting has not been scheduled.
• Approved a $100 charge for ambulance service when drugs are used and the patient refuses transport to the hospital. The county has seen some "chronic users" call for service and be treated, then refuse transport, which amounts to getting free medical care.
• Learned the county got nine proposals from architects for the proposed ambulance building. The Public Safety Committee will meet to review the proposals and narrow the choice to the top three or four.
• Heard that Pike County Economic Development Corp. hopes to work with the board's IT committee to develop a county website.
• Adopted the annual prevailing wage ordinance on a 5-2 vote, with Justin Noble and Jim Sheppard opposed.
• Adopted several resolutions tied to federal reimbursement from 2008 flood recovery expenses.
• Appointed Fred Bradshaw to the Rural Griggsville Fire Protection District for a three-year term ending the first Monday of May 2016.