Judge rules Vayda cannot be both commissioner and sherriff's deputy
BALDWIN — This week the Lake County Circuit Court ruled county commissioner Charles Vayda could not hold office as commissioner while still being employed by the Lake County Sheriff's Department.
The Lake County Board of Commissioners brought this decision to the court for a declaratory judgement in late December 2014. The case was heard by Judge Susan Sniegowski last week, and she rendered her decision on March 10.
Vayda was elected in November 2014 to represent the sixth district of Lake County and he began his term on Jan. 1 of this year. Since then, he has taken a leave of absence from the Sheriff's Department to ensure there would be no bad light shown on the department should the decision not be resolved in his favor.
The board believed Vayda could not serve as a Lake County commissioner while being employed by the Lake County Sheriff's Department, citing the unpublished court decision of the case Boyce v. Williams which stated individuals may not be employed by more than one county organization at the same time.
“He’s double dipping,” remarked Commissioner Dan Sloan. “He’s getting a salary and benefits as a deputy and as a commissioner, and I don’t think that’s a good idea to begin with in an area as poor as Lake County.”
Vayda countered that because the decision of Boyce v. Williams was unpublished and featured the caveat "unless otherwise provided by law," he was in his right to be in both positions.
Vayda cited several attorney general opinions including one stating a county commissioner could be deputized by the sheriff in a county of less than 25,000 people. The board countered that the case of Boyce v. Williams addressed this issue and came to a different conclusion.
Sniegowski stated in her official opinion that because Vayda continued to stay in both positions, all of the relevant opinions and cases had to be weighed against each other. Ultimately, the main determining factor was there would be a conflict of interest for Vayda if he were to remain both a deputy and commissioner as his duty to his constituency could be in opposition to his personal interest.
"Because the board of commissioners exercises authority over the sheriff's office employees, a conflict of interest does exist," wrote Sniegowski in her official case opinion. "It is this conflict of interest that makes it impossible for Defendant Vayda to serve both roles simultaneously."
Vayda addressed this, stating since the current sheriff's department contract is in place for a period exceeding his term as county commissioner, this would not be an issue, but the judge ruled the relationship between the two positions would still be inappropriate.
The board requested attorney fees for the matter, but since the judge ruled the defense put forth by Vayda was not frivolous, no costs or attorney fees would be awarded.
Vayda could not be reached for comment.