A bare majority of the McHenry County Board’s Human Resources Committee refused to rubber stamp McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks’ hiring of two patronage employees at its Wednesday meeting.
By a 4-3 vote, HR Committee members voted down a resolution which would have rectified the improper hiring of Communication Specialist Oliver Serafini and Administrative Assistant Bridget Geenen.
Both worked for Franks while he was State Representative. Serafini also managed an unsuccessful campaign for a Democratic Party candidate for State Rep. in DuPage County after working for House Speaker Mike Madigan.
Voting to reject the “cover-the-county’s-rear end-for-something-done-improperly” resolution were
- Donna Kurtz
- Michael Rein
- Tom Wilbeck
- Craig Wilcox
In favor were
- Chairman John Jung
- Don Kopsell
- Mary McCann
Here is the resolution which was presented, but not posted until 4:47 on the afternoon before the meeting, something that member Michael Rein complained about at the beginning of the meeting.
(“Personally, I’ve never had that happen [in my time on the Board]. Kind of inexcusable. This is just not good at all as far as transparency goes.”)
An here is the memo that was withheld from County Board members and the public until about sixteen hours before the meeting (not exactly a high point in the transparent administration that Jack Franks promised):
Now you have seen everything HR Committee members had a chance to see (except for McHenry County Blog articles) before the meeting.
While the resolution states that approval would save McHenry County taxpayers $45,942, member Donna Kurtz pointed out, “Adding people does increase the amount of money going out the door.”
She pointed out it would increase “our real headcount.”
Preceding Kurtz’ observation was intensive questioning of County Administrator Peter Austin, so intense that he said he felt like he was being “cross examined,”
Austin’s testimony clearly showed that he was between a rock and a hard place in dealing with newly-elected Chairman Franks’ insistence that his two people be hired.
Craig Wilcox led off the questioning of Austin questioning what authority the Chairman had to ask for the two to be hired.
“The Chairman has the authority to ask for anything. It was an ‘ask,'” Austin replied.
Wilcox noted that the State’s Attorney’s opinion “says he didn’t act illegally.”
“My job was to make this work,” Austin continued.
He explained that Franks was running the office “very differently” from his predecessors.
“He wants to touch [everything].”
“Did the Chairman have the authority to hire? That’s still outstanding.
“We didn’t push that because I have the authority to hire employees.
“I don’t have spots to put them in. I have to ask the County Board.
“I asked staff, ‘How could we do this?’
“It was predicated on that we’d have to go back to committee.”
Austin then pointed out that delays had occurred because the Human Resources Committee was suggested by Franks to be eliminated and no meetings were held in December, Franks’ decision.
Various other actions ended up delaying committee consideration until Wednesday (March 15th).
Staff “found two positions that were empty.”
Wilcox then brought the discussion around to whether an at-large elected County Board Chairman had the same hiring power that other countywide elected officials have. [Officials like the Sheriff, Treasurer, Clerk, Circuit Clerk are mentioned in the State Constitution; Franks’ office is not.]
Austin said he was aware of the question, but “I was trying to solve a problem and keeping this Board out of the debate.”
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More over the weekend.