In the agenda packet of the Monday meeting of the McHenry County Board of Health, there is a lengthy justification for the County Board’s approval of the Board of Health’s in-house enforcement of violations.
The Board voted to approve the resolution below, which Administrator Melissa Adamson said had been a bit changed.
She said she had asked for the Resolution to be put on the Public Health and Community Services Committee agenda on Tuesday, but that Committee Chairman Chris Christensen thought it best to wait for the new Board to consider it.
ESTABLISHMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE ADJUDICATION PROGRAM TO PROCESS PUBLIC HEALTH ORDINANCE VIOLATIONS
WHEREAS, 55ILCS 5/5-43 as amended, provides Illinois Counties-specifically Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will-the ability to create an Administrative Adjudication process for the hearing of certain ordinance violations;
WHEREAS, all collar counties in northern Illinois, with the exception of McHenry County, have implemented Administrative Adjudication programs to expedite compliance with and resolution of certain public health and safety issues including environmental, nuisance, and animal control ordinance violations; and
WHEREAS, Administrative Adjudication streamlines the resolution process and is shown to be an efficient and cost-effective approach that minimizes staff time in the courtroom and gains compliance more rapidly than through standard court, and
WHEREAS, the Administrative Adjudication process is less formal, it is shown to be more flexible and accessible to residents-reinforcing the idea that county government exists for protection of residents’ health, safety, and quality of life; and
WHEREAS, McHenry County Board of Health has identified an increasing need for an adjudicative process that expedites responses to ordinance violations, and brings timely resolution to address health and safety conditions, animal control issues, and nuisance violations; and
WHEREAS, McHenry County Department of Health’s analysis of FY2019 court file data shows that the average days from the first court date to resolution and average appearances per violation was 153.5 days and 4.8 appearances for Environmental Health and 125 days and 3.2 appearances for Veterinary Public Health cases respectively; and
WHEREAS, COVID-19 emergency provisions under part 690 Control of Communicable Diseases Code violations have exacerbated the need for an expedited process to resolve violations of public health ordinances and administrative code; and
WHEREAS, McHenry County Board of Health recognizes delays in adjudicating ordinance violations adversely affects the quality of life of McHenry County residents; and
WHEREAS, the initial financial requirement to set up an Administrative Adjudication program is estimated at between $50,000-$70,000 for contractual Adjudicator and administrative personnel, which is to be offset by fees and fines.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the McHenry County Board of Health requests the McHenry County Board adopts an Administrative Adjudication program to support the resolution of certain public health and safety ordinances and violations of the administrative code.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the County Clerk is hereby authorized to distribute a certified copy of the resolution to the County Administrator, County Board Chair and members.
September 18, 2020 _________________
Dr. Will Stinson, President
McHenry County Board of Health
DATED at Woodstock, Illinois, this 24th day of November, A.D., 2020.
Jack D. Franks, Chairman
McHenry County Board
ATTEST: Joe Tirio, County Clerk
SUBJECT: Establishment of Administrative Adjudication Program to Process Public Health Ordinance Violations
McHenry County Department of Health Recommendations for an Administrative Adjudication Program
• What is Administrative Adjudication?
• What is the Goal of an Administrative Adjudication Process?
• Why Implement an Administrative Adjudication Process Now?
• Why is the Department of Health Initiating the Recommendation?
• How would the current process change?
• How does Administrative Adjudication Create Better Compliance?
• 4 Steps to Implementation
• Technical Provisions Required for Program
Administrative Adjudication is a popular program. State statutes provides for Counties to adopt and implement an Administrative Adjudication Process (AAP) to achieve compliance of code violations.
All of the collar counties-Lake, Cook, Will, DuPage, Kane-except McHenry County, adopted this administrative process by 2012. Additional Counties that use this administrative system include Peoria, Tazewell, Kankakee, Coles, Ogle, Hamilton, and Rock Island.
Most municipalities over 15,000 throughout the state have adopted an AAP to expedite compliance and reduce judical hearing cost. The local cities of McHenry, Woodstock, Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Cary, and Barrington Hills each have AAP in place.
McHenry County has considered AAP in the past and made an effort to implement a program in 2012-2013.
WHAT IS ADMINISTRATIVE ADJUDICATION?
It is a lean, timely and cost effective process for achieving code compliance for time-critical violations, and for those violations that directly negatively impact the quality of life for neighbors and neighborhoods.
An AAP approach does the following:
• Simplifies the code adjudication process by creating a standalone hearing procedure, apart from the current circuit court system, for code violations.
• Provides for expedited hearing dates and times for violators and staff.
• Replaces, for most code violations, an expensive administrative process.
• Provides a greater level of customer service with a simpler, more informal process that does not add burden to the judicial system.
• Creates a culture of compliance as shown by other counties over the years.
• Provides a more equitable judicial review as the Hearing Officer will be trained in the Public Health (and potentially other County departments) ordinances.
• Provides the same level of judicial review with the Hearing Officer acting in a similar capacity as a judge hearing testimony and accepting evidence, and will issue findings and render decisions and orders and impose penalties and reasonable costs consistent with applicable code provisions.
• Recovers costs of adjudication to the extent possible, when immediate compliance is the goal.
Background: Code enforcement cases are currently adjudicated through the McHenry County 22nd Circuit Court System where these cases are on the same court docket with other Departments code violations.
WHAT IS THE GOAL OF AN ADMINISTRATIVE ADJUDICATION PROCESS?
The goals for an AAP are straightforward:
• EXPEDITE and SIMPLFY the current process for ordinance compliance.
• IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF LIFE for owners of properties adjacent to violations by gaining compliance in a shorter amount of time.
• EXPEDITED JUDGMENTS for time-sensitive violations
• INCENTIVISE COMPLIANCE: Use the existing fines associated with each ordinance as an incentive for compliance.
• COST EFFECTIVENESS: Charge hearing costs and fines to cover the costs associated with the administrative adjudication process to the extent practical with compliance as the main goal of the process, while reducing the cost associated with the current judical administrative system.
WHY IMPLEMENT AN ADMINISTRATIVE ADJUDICATION PROCESS NOW?
• Increased code violations: COVID-19 increased demands on Health Department.
• Environmental Health Division staff have been charged with increased enforcement responsibilities, and routine enforcement must continue.
• Opportunity to evaluate the efficiency of the current system of adjudicating ordinance violations.
• Need to expedite the adjudicate violations to address:
o Increasing frustration of neighbors and businesses when violations appear not to be addressed.
o Staff frustration with extremely slow adjudication process which allows violators to continue to violate.
• Demonstrates that the County and Department of Health enforce and resolve ordinance violations in a timely manner
o Public views delays in administrative justice as tantamount to denial of justice for the neighbors and neighborhoods affected by ordinance violators. This program addresses those concerns.
o An expedited process enhances service to the public.
WHY IS THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH INITIATING THE RECOMMENDATION?
Local Health Departments outside of McHenry County have been able to address the increase in Environmental Health and/or Animal Control violations in a timely manner and more efficiently because of their AAP.
The McHenry County Board of Health recognized this need for an expedited approach to Code violations, and passed a resolution on September 18, 2020 requesting County Board allow the Department of Health implement an AAP.
Heavy Demand on Staff time because of COVID-19.
Staff simply does not have the time to spend:
o filing the current amount of paper work necessary for OV court
o spending time in OV Court which handles other Department’s cases at the same time
o Taking phone complaints about lack of enforcement.
Department of Health can pilot the AAP approach, and later expand to Planning and Development, if desired.
HOW DOES THE CURRENT PROCESS CHANGE?
• The staff enforcement process remains the same.
• Internal process for NOTICE TO APPEAR FOR VIOLATION changes.
o The notices are to be filed with the Administrative Adjudication Recording
Secretary and placed on the calendar for the next hearing date (within 15 days of the violation notice)
Existing system requires violations to be filed with the State’s Attorney’s office, review by that office, filed with the Circuit Clerk for a hearing date in OV Court (Ordinance Violation) anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks for Court appearance. [Emphasis added.]
HOW DOES ADMINISTRATIVE ADJUDICATION CREATE BETTER COMPLIANCE?
• Timely Hearings: Violations are addressed within 15 days of mailing of the violation, unlike a 30+ day delay in current system.
• Reduce Staff Time spent on paperwork and time in court, since the Hearings are established specifically for Department of Health violations.
• Record keeping of compliance tracking can be integrated in the Department’s permit files more efficiently.
• Hearing fees and fines may cover the costs associated with the administrative adjudication process. Fees and fines are collected and used to cover Department’s cost of AAP.
• Reduces the paper work required for filing a Notice to Appear.
• Reduces Dependency on:
o State’s Attorney’s office
o Circuit Clerk Office
o Judicial System
o Sheriff’s Department
• Less intimidating process; no lawyer required, but one can use.
• Adjudicator is trained and understands the Department’s ordinances; violator is allowed to interact with the Adjudicator. AAP experience more satisfying, violators feel they are listened to.
• Less intimidating environment: Hearing takes place in a conference room in the Administration Building.
• Immediate direction: Judgement and direction and fines are issued almost immediately, no 30-day wait for compliance and another court date. If compliance is not achieved within 30 days, another AAP date, and another set of fines.
• Incentive for compliance: Delays mean additional court fees for the violators, which is not currently the case. State Statute provides means to collect fines.
• Message: County serious about compliance. Violators understand County Departments are serious about compliance. Kane and Will Counties, and Crystal Lake and Woodstock report 80% compliance after the first hearing.
For Department Personnel
• Timely support of Department’s staff who work diligently to seek compliance, and face the public’s frustration and resentment when violators continue to disrupt their neighbors’ quality of life.
FOUR STEPS TO IMPLEMENTATION
County Board Actions:
- Adopt an Ordinance based on the requirements and standards set forth in 55 ILSC 5/5-43000.
- Provide ‘seed funding’ to establish the program. Estimated cost for first year of the program is $50,000-$75,000 to cover costs of Contractual Adjudicator, Recording Secretary/records manager, Administrative support for Adjudicator, possible software updates. Revenues expected to cover most operating expenses. Timely compliance is the primary goal. Other potential benefit: cost savings to the judicial system.
- Contract with and train a qualified Administrative Adjudicator, Recording Secretary and program support staff.
- Initiate a Phased in Approach to:
a. Move various types of violations to AAP as determined by number of cases
b. Train staff on record keeping and permit violation tracking, and the process of utilizing the AAP for violations.
TIMEFRAME: 2-4 months to begin
TECHNICAL PROVISIONS TO OPERATE THE PROGRAM
The Department of Health would evaluate its existing IT capabilities to determine software needs, if any.
- SUMMARY OF THE CODE ENFORCEMENT PROCESS
• County staff is made aware of an ordinance violation.
• The owner is notified that a violation exists and instructed what is required to bring the violation into compliance and within what time frame.
• If compliance is not obtained within the specified time frame, a Notice to Appear is sent to the violator.
• Upon mailing of the “ Notice”case is set for the next administrative adjudication hearing.
• At the hearing, county staff (with prior training and possible assistance from the State’s Attorney’s Office) presents the evidence to the hearing officer. The owner has the opportunity to refute the evidence or demonstrate compliance.
• The hearing officer enters a judgment on the case which may include assessing hearing costs, fines, entering a default judgment if the owner does not show, or setting an additional hearing for the next month. The judgment could set fines to be assessed if compliance is not obtained by the second hearing.