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Rauner attorneys pushing for comptroller appointment power

Attorneys for Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner met with Gov. Pat Quinn’s office this week to put forward what they argue is a clear-cut legal scenario that allows Rauner to make the long-term appointment to fill a vacancy left by the sudden passing of Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka.

Quinn’s office, however, said it is still reviewing the legalities of what is considered an unprecedented situation in Illinois.

Rauner’s attorneys met with the general counsel of the governor’s office and an ethics officer. According to a Rauner spokesman, they made three points, including asking that Quinn appoint Topinka top aide Nancy Kimme for the term expiring Jan. 12. 

Rauner attorneys also “made comprehensive legal analysis of our position, which is that there are two vacancies and Bruce can fill the second,” spokesman Mike Schrimpf wrote. ”Asked if they had any conflicting legal authority to point to, they were unable to do so.”

The governor’s office acknowledged that both sides met.

“They stated their position and we received it,” Quinn spokesman Grant Klinzman said by email. ”We are reviewing the Illinois constitution, state law and relevant court cases.”

Klinzman said the governor’s office is focusing on Section 7 of the Illinois Constitution which says if a vacancy occurs the ”Governor shall fill the office by appointment. The appointee shall hold office until the elected officer qualifies or until a successor is elected and qualified as may be provided by law and shall not be subject to removal by the Governor. If the Lieutenant Governor fails to qualify or if his office becomes vacant, it shall remain vacant until the end of the term.”

On Thursday, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, made clear he wasn’t keen on the possibility of having a special legislative session to settle the matter. That scenario had been floated by Senate Democrats a day earlier. Madigan instead encouraged Gov. Pat Quinn and Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner to find a “sensible solution” regarding who has the power to appoint the next Illinois comptroller, following the sudden death of Judy Baar Topinka.

“The speaker said to me [Thursday] that he regards the questions about succession in the comptroller’s office to be an executive department matter,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said Thursday. “He hopes and encourages Gov. Quinn and Gov.-elect Rauner to work together on a sensible solution.”

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, were still reviewing the legal scenarios.

“While a special session may be possible, it’s not clear yet that it’s necessary that we’re going to need to call one,” said Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton.  

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is reviewing the matter to determine who has the power to appoint Topinka’s successor and for how long. 

Rauner on Wednesday said he believed the law was clear that it was his appointment to make and urged Quinn to temporarily appoint Topinka chief of staff Nancy Kimme. Quinn, meanwhile, urged patience on Wednesday, saying it was too soon after Topinka’s death to discuss.

Topinka, 70, died after complications from a stroke. 

A memorial service honoring Topinka is scheduled to take place at 9: 30 a.m. Wednesday at the Local 150, 6200 Joliet Road in Countryside.