Using a cost-benefit approach, an 18-4 vote of the McHenry County Board settled a suit brought by Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers over an alleged violation of the Open Meetings Act when the majority of a couple of committees attended a press conference held by Governor Bruce Rauner on his Turn Around Agenda.
There were three conditions imposed on the County Board by the settlement:
- payment of $25,000 to the union
- repeal of the Board resolution supporting Rauner’s platform
- agreeing not to subsequently approve a similar resolution
Those voting against the resolution were
- Diane Evertsen
- Andrew Gasser
- Mike Skala
- Chuck Wheeler
Prior to the vote, the following urged fellow Republicans not to vote for the settlement:
- McHenry County Republican Party Chairman Sandra Salgado
- State Rep. candidate Steve Reick
- Wonder Lake Precinct Committeeman Bob Anderson
- Crystal Lake Precinct Committeeman John Peltz
- Richmond Precinct Committeeman Matt Meyer
More Precinct Committeeman stood when Salgado requested they do so.
The settlement, which was not available before the meeting, can be read below:
Speaking for union members was Dirk Enger, an iron worker and four-year Democratic Party member of the DuPage County Board.
Prior to the vote Diane Evertsen expressed displeasure with the unnamed Assistant State’s Attorney who represented County interests.
She unsuccessfully moved to send the agreement back to the State’s Attorney with the request that a different attorney be assigned to the case.
Nick Provenzano revealed that when the suit was first discussed a request to hire a special assistant State’s Attorney was rejected by State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi.
Based on that decision, Provenzano argued that passed of Evertsen’s measure “would serve no purpose bu to delay.”
Evertsen’s motion was defeated on a voice vote.
Speaking in favor of the motion to approve the agreement was Donna Kurtz.
She said she supported the components of Governor Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda, mentioning term limits, reapportionment reform, allowing local option on Prevailing Wage, etc..
“My vote is not based on being intimidated…but to represent the interests of the taxpayer.”
She warned that if the case proceeded, legal fees could exceed those in the Crystal Lake bleacher case, which were over $1 million.
Chuck Wheeler argued against approval, pointing out that he had been told building “projects cost four times what they would cost” with the Prevailing Wage requirement.
He also pointed out that Workers Comp claims were often “scams.”
He told of claims made on Mondays for injuries that occurred at home on weekends.
He joined Evertsen in observing that “the representation we had from the State’s Attorney’s Office was somewhat lacking.”
“Talk is cheap unless you’re talking with a lawyer,” attorney Mike Walkup said.
He said he was looking at the case from the position of a County Board member who was trying “to keep the taxes as low as we possibly can.”
“$25,000. That is chicken feed if the case goes forward.
“You can put a zero behind it just for depositions.”
Walkup said the point at issue–whether attendance by a majority of a committee at a public event constituted a violation of the Open Meetings Act–had not been litigated so it could end up in the Illinois Supreme Court.
“It’s a chance I don’t think we should take.
“We’re not here to make grand political statements.”
Evertsen pointed out that County Board members attended after getting an emailed invitation.
“I have no intention of yielding to extortion, bullying, retaliation!”
Carolyn Schofield pointed out that the Board might not be in its current situation had her attempt to force committee consideration prior to the resolution’s Board passage succeeded.
“I’m tired of McHenry County and its citizens being political pawns between the Governor and Michael Madigan.”
Anna May Miller came to the meeting “with no horse in this race,” having not attended the press conference or voted for the resolution.
However, after hearing the financial arguments she decided to vote for the resolution to save money.
“There never was an Open Meetings Act violation,” Yvonne Barnes asserted.
She said the suit was filed just to make people “look bad.”
Barnes said she would vote for the proposal for “financial reasons.”
Provenzano said he talked to Governor Rauner “face to face” Friday.
“I haven’t ever backed down to any union,” he said.
“I did not back down when I had two vehicles in my driveway blown up twenty feet from my children,” he revealed in certainly the most shocking statement of the evening.
“I clearly have a constitutional right to assemble.
“I will not vote to spend one more dollar on this resolution.”
He said that in his role as Chairman of the Legislative Committee ideas expressed in the resolution might find their way into the County’s legislative proposal in the next couple of months.
“We will not pay one more dollar in blood money to this organization.”