Looking at the dictionary definition, and considering how state and city officials have sold ‘balanced budgets’ to their citizens while spending beyond their means, it looks like some of our governments may have been committing fraud.
When it comes to civil wrongs and/or criminal guilt, however, things can get complicated. Laws define culpability, and in turn, those laws need to be interpreted, applied, and adjudicated.
Chapter 65 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes contains the Illinois Municipal Code. Copying and pasting this exciting reading into a Word file gives you a document with over 500,000 words spanning 88 pages. (As the Jesuit scholar Juan de Mariana observed in back in the late 1500s, when there are many laws, “as not all of them may be kept or known, respect for all of them is lost.")
Here’s one provision in the Illinois Municipal Code that includes the word ‘fraudulent:’
The corporate authorities of each municipality may suppress bawdy or disorderly houses and also houses of ill-fame or assignation, within the limits of the municipality and within 3 miles of the outer boundaries of the municipality. The corporate authorities may suppress gaming, gambling houses, lotteries, and all fraudulent devices or practices for the purpose of obtaining money or property and may prohibit the sale or exhibition of obscene or immoral publications, prints, pictures, or illustrations.
Granted, this may be a bit wacky, but let’s think this out, step-by-step.
- Might the buildings called home by the Illinois state legislature or the Chicago City Council be called ‘bawdy or disorderly houses?’
- Do these folks conduct ‘gaming’ practices? Do they operate ‘gambling houses’ or ‘lotteries?’
- Do they use ‘fraudulent devices or practices for the purposes of obtaining money or property?’
- Could their budget and other financial reporting documents be labelled ‘obscene or immoral publications?’
- If my house is ‘disorderly,’ could they take it away and sell it, along with all the other messy houses, and use the proceeds to fund government pensions?
Pushing the envelope a little here, but a ‘yes’ answer is possible for all these questions.
In turn, this bit of whimsy is offered as it appears some of the powers-that-be are getting much more serious about municipal fraud.