Mental Health Board Transparency Needs Improvement

In planning to attend the McHenry County Mental Health Board meeting Monday, I went to the County web site to check out the time.

What was listed on the McHenry County web site about the 708 Board meetings Monday.

The Mental Health Board is a separate tax district and I’m glad that they are trying to get their meeting posted where people might tend to look for meetings for an entity called the McHenry County Mental Health Board.

(The County Board appoints its members and gets to vote up or down on its budget.  Otherwise, the Board is virtually independent, much like the Conservation District Board.)

There is no requirement for posting meetings on the County website, but those looking for Monday’s events, including myself, might be excused for being irritated at not being able to find Monday’s Ethics and Compliance Committee meeting anywhere on the internet.

I also went to the 708 Board’s calendar.  Nothing was listed there about the Ethics and Compliance Committee meeting either, as you can see below:

Here’s what the McHenry County Mental Health Board calendar revealed last night. There is no mention of the 5 PM Ethics and Compliance Committee meeting that preceded the Board meeting.

Agenda of the Ethics and Compliance Committee meeting. Click to enlarge.

After discussion with the 708 Board’s attorney Frank Gosser, I conclude that the 5 o’clock meeting was not an “illegal meeting,” as I charged during the Public Comment period of the 6 PM Board meeting, but the notice given certainly would not win any awards for transparency. I apologize for assuming lack of posting on the internet would make the Committee’s meeting a violation of the Open Meetings Act.

In any event, I figured the meeting would be at 7 and saw on both web sites that it was at 6.

Then I got a tip that there was a 5 o’clock meeting, which you will notice is not on either of the above calendars.

I understand that the Mental Health Board staff is trying to make sure such meetings are posted.  I hope they succeed soon.

The Ethics and Compliance Committee meeting was an interesting one, the most important part of which concerned new due process rules.

The goal of the new Audit and Appeal Policy, which was adopted at the 6 PM Board meeting, is to protect both the rights of the Board and the agencies who received primarily real estate tax financial support from it.

Details in a forthcoming article.

But let me get back to transparency.

It seems to me that a local government like the Mental Health Board should provide information about upcoming meetings, including agendas.  That did not happen with the Committee meeting’s agenda.

I checked out the agenda for the Board meeting at 6 and found the following under “New Business:”

“New Business” as listed on the Agenda for the August 20, 2012, meeting.  Note that attachments are missing for the last three items.

Perhaps you can figure out what the last two items refer to, but I couldn’t:

D. 201208-77 Executive Director Contract – FOR ACTION
E. 201208-78 Independent Contractor Agreement – FOR ACTION

I figured the Board was about to hire a new Executive Director to replace Sandy Lewis in the first item above.

The second one? I had no idea.

It turns out that the Executive Director item was the resignation of Sandy Lewis.

This is the way McHenry County College handles a resignation on its August 23rd agenda:

“Accept Resignation of Larry West and Approve Separation Agreement, Board Report #12-199”

Quite clear, wouldn’t you say?

And the independent contractor agreement?

What was that all about?

Robert Lesser

It contains the number “201208-78” and there was a document that attorney Gosser was filling out after the meeting, but the Mental Health Board seems to have made the deliberate decision not to share this with people who might be home on the internet.

Earlier in the evening Deputy Director Robert Lesser was feted with a cake and recognized for his service to the agency, even presented with a mock-up of a plaque to be produced later.

He was obviously moved by the presentation.

It turned out the independent contractor mentioned in the agenda is him.

It seems with three of the top four staffers leaving more or less simultaneously, Lesser is the only one available to do the end-of-year paperwork.

I listened to the Board’s discussion, but never did I hear the terms of the unposted contract.

So, after adjournment, I asked attorney Gosser and was told Lesser would be paid $100 an hour with a maximum of 499 hours. A typical work year has about 2000 hours. (Lesser earned $97,645.86 a year in the latest salary rack-up.)


Mental Health Board Transparency Needs Improvement — 4 Comments

  1. So just what does the Mental Health Board do? High priced executives and lawyers?

  2. Mr. Lesser is being paid 2 times as much per hour than if he were an employee.

  3. At best it seems like we are paying more than we should.

    At worst, this seems like a conflict of interest.

    When someone quits their job at my company, I don;t rehire them as a consultant at double the pay.

    Also, I’d like to know if his position is being filed by someone new.

    I certainly don’t want to pay twice (or in this case three times) to get one job done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *