Who’s Afraid of Chris Jenner?

Chris Jenner fighting Cary's Tax Increment Financing District.

Chris Jenner fighting Cary’s Tax Increment Financing District.

Pursuant to a complaint from a person unknown, Lou Bianchi’s McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office is trying to kick two McHenry County College candidates off the ballot

They are Cary Grade School Board member Chris Jenner, who was seeking re-election, plus running for the McHenry County College Board, and EriK Sivertsen, who is running for both the McHenry Grade School District Board and the MCC Board.

Erik Sivertsen

Erik Sivertsen

Jenner is in his second two-year term on the District 26 Board and has taken part in the downsizing necessitated by teacher contracts which paid excessive salaries and benefits.

Sivertsen is a Young Republican who has firsthand experience at MCC as a student.

There are nine running for three vacancies on the MCC Board.  Below they are listed in alphabetical order.

  • Scott Alford
  • Chris Jenner
  • Carol Larson
  • Erik Sivertsen
  • Mike Smith
  • Molly Walsh
  • Arne Waltmire
  • Tom Wilbeck

Bianchi filed suit based on a 1993 Attorney General’s decision that held service on a grade school and a junior college board simultaneously was incompatible.

Sivertsen told me that as he read the opinion, serving on both boards at the same time was not allowed, but he pointed out there was nothing in the opinion about running for both boards.

Following advice of a top State’s Attorney assistant, Jenner on Monday asked District 26 to de-certify his candidacy.  The district did so.

The suit was filed anyway.

A hearing will be held in Judge Thomas Meyer’s courtroom on Monday afternoon, the deadline for finalizing ballots.

Perhaps you would like to play detective.

Read the following statements made by Chris Jenner at the MCC candidates night last week.

Any of the candidates would benefit from having fewer candidates on the ballot.

The questions I pose is “Whose candidacy is threatened most by Chris Jenner’s being on the ballot?  Who or whose supporters would have wanted him off the ballot enough to file a complaint with the State’s Attorney’s Office?”

Opening Statement at MCC Candidates’ Forum

My name is Chris Jenner. I’ve lived in Cary for the past 20 years. My main qualification to serve in this office is my accomplishments in nearly 8 years of service on the Cary D-26 school board.

Last summer, someone asked me if I knew what was going on with the management of my local community college. Over the next several months I found a number of things that seemed wrong to me.

  • A budget that forgot McHenry County is under the tax cap, with no apparent consequences or discipline for the mistake, and a proposal to make up the shortfall through a tuition hike instead of dipping into the
    college’s healthy cash reserves.
  • 22,000 taxpayer dollars spent to send 5 trustees, 2 administrators, and the student trustee to Boston to stay in $319 a night hotel rooms and eat lobster dinners.
  • Use of a so-called consultant with an obvious conflict of interest to justify a $45 million health sciences facility and health club.
  • A plan to issue $45 million in debt without asking for permission from the voters.

These are all symptoms. The root cause of these problems is that for years, the MCC board has been dominated by insiders, by people with
ties to the college, by advocates of big government, and long term incumbents. The field of candidates this year includes several insiders and long term incumbents.

Yes, the trustees do advocate for the college. If elected, I will advocate for the college. I will also advocate for the taxpayers, students, and local businesses, which seem to be taking a back seat to the effort to expand the college’s facilities. I will also vote against the college incurring debt or even putting the taxpayers at risk without asking the voters’ permission through the use of double barreled bonds or a backdoor referendum.

Closing Statement at MCC Candidates’ Forum

Thank you League of Women Voters and the other groups for hosting this important forum. I’d like to highlight and expand on a few points I made in my opening statement.

A health sciences facility and lab and classroom expansion may be warranted, but not nearly to the extent that is being proposed. A fitness center certainly is not needed — McHenry County already has 20, many of which are struggling. The proposal on the table nearly doubles MCC’s existing classroom and lab space, when the existing space is
less than 50% utilized. In difficult economic times, utilization of public resources needs to go up, not down.

Trying to portray a health club management firm that could become a financial partner in the project as an “independent expert” to perform a feasibility study is blatantly wrong. Power Wellness lacks expertise in the breadth of the project being proposed, and is certainly not independent.

An opinion of an independent expert is what the law requires to issue Alternative Revenue Bonds. Ask the residents of Lakewood whose property taxes jumped to pay for Red Tail Golf Course whether Alternative Revenue Bonds put the taxpayers at risk. A public entity issuing debt without asking the voters is wrong, as evidenced by recent legislation filed specifically due to how MCC has proposed to fund the expansion.

As I mentioned at the opening, the root cause of MCC’s management problems is domination of the board by insiders and long term incumbents beholden to the college. If elected, I will bring an outside, independent voice that will advocate not just for the sake of the college, but for our students, local businesses, and taxpayers. I will not vote for the college to incur millions of dollars of debt without asking your opinion at the ballot box first.

I’ll close by discussing policy, which is supposed to guide and govern the board and administration in decision making. In all 8 years that I’ve been on the D-26 school board, I have been on the Policy Committee, being the chair for 6 of those 8 years. I’ve authored several good governance policies, which the D-26 board unanimously passed.
I’ve reviewed the MCC policy manual and I find it lacking in good governance policies. If elected, I will bring good governance policies for the MCC board to consider, including the one we adopted in D-26 several years ago that forbids the district from issuing debt without voter approval.

= = = = =

McHenry County Blog’s article about the MCC candidates’ night can be found here.


Who’s Afraid of Chris Jenner? — 11 Comments

  1. I strongly encourage a vote for Jenner. Chris is exactly what we need on the MCC Board!

  2. Chris is a straight shooter and one of the very best people I can think of for the job.

  3. According to the 2012 Candidate Guide : “If petitions for nominations have been filed for the same person for two or more offices which are incompatible… so that the same person could not serve in more than one of the offices if elected, that person must withdraw as a candidate from all but one of such offices WITHIN FIVE BUSINESS DAYS following the last day for petition filing. 10 ILCS 5/7-12. 8-9 and 10-7.

    Could be a problem.

  4. It gets worse. “If he fails to withdraw as a candidate for all but one of such offices WITHIN SUCH TIME his name shall not be certified, nor printed on the primary ballot, for ANY office.”

    This, however, refers to a “primary” ballot.

  5. It is a 1996 informal comment.

    According to state statute you CAN hold both offices.

    The letter by the attorney generals office says “The General Assembly has provided for simultaneous tenure in the office of community college district trustee and school board member in section 3-7 of the Public Community College Act.”

  6. So, if Erik is correct, and I assume he is, why is the SA going after him?

  7. Chris is a knowledgeable and caring servant.

    Pursuant to his current desire he has actually instituted meetings of school board members from all over the state to discuss best practices.

    He is exactly the person citizens ask for when looking for candidates.

    I hope he can bring his brand of representation to MCC.

    Good luck to you Chris.

  8. To all who have commented on this site: Please write letters to the editor of the Northwest Herald saying we need to get rid of the incumbents and insiders at MCC and elect Jenner & Wilbeck because they are committed to the students at MCC and to the taxpayers.

    Those letters make a big difference, as other candidates, who have organized formal letter-writing campaigns, already know.

  9. Vote for Jenner.

    If he’s kicked off the ballot write his name in.

    He will ask questions of the administration and board, and unlike many board members, does not rubber stamp administration recommendations.

    My take on this is someone, and probably several someones, does not want Jenner on a Board asking questions.

    They could be people from the administration, people who financially benefit from the passing of a referendum, or someone belonging to one of the unions.

    The unions at McHenry County College are as follows.

    McHenry County College Faculty Association, IEA-NEA.

    McHenry County College Adjunct Faculty Association, IEA-NEA.

    McHenry County College Staff Council, Local 1642.

    The first two unions are the local affiliate of the Illinois Education Association, which is the state affiliate of the National Education Association.

    The last union is the local affiliate of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, which is the state affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.

    Many people financially benefit from community college construction projects.

    Trade unions, architects, attorneys, bond counsel, bond salesmen, financial advisors, and the list goes on and on and on. Not to mention the College President and others working at the college put on their resume they led school expansion.

    There is no excuse for any board to issue public debt without a referendum, it should be illegal.

    It probably is illegal in some states.

  10. He was not kicked off the ballot, as you can see here.

    However, write-ins don’t count unless the person registers his/her intent to run as a write-in about a month ahead of time.

    So last minute write-ins are futile.

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