Franks’ Patronage Hires Fail HR Committee Test – Part 1

Oliver Serafini’s McHenry County employee identification card.

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

Bridgett Geenen’s McHenry County employee identification card.

  • 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.”)

After the HR Committee discussion did not seem to be going member Mary McCann’s way, she moved to amend this resolution removing something about the County Chairman.  The amendment passed before the resolution was rejected.

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.”

= = = = =
More over the weekend.


Franks’ Patronage Hires Fail HR Committee Test – Part 1 — 16 Comments

  1. “keeping the board out of the debate” or keeping it from the board, Peter Austin?

    Anything to make it work? Like ignoring or violating process and policy?

    Committee didn’t cross examine them enough to begin to cover elimination of a vacant position for a set time frame and all the questions already asked on earlier posts.

  2. I listened to the audio.

    Austin was extremely evasive.

    He sounded as if he knew good and we’ll that he had messed up, and was hoping that the issue would just go away.

    It’s possible that both Kurtz and Rein will be leaving soon.

    The Board has to be extremely vigilant about who might replace them.

  3. Now I see why Franks chose John Jung as chairman for the HR committee-a weak yes man.

    Don Kopsell-Did he actually stay awake for the vote?

    Mary McCann-pitiful excuse for a board member with the way she votes.

    These are all three perfect examples of Democrats running as Republicans to win elections.

  4. How do Jung, Kopsell and McCann justify their votes?

    Maybe they don’t understand the rules.

    Sounds like Austin is Jack’s bag man.

  5. Don’t forget, this is the same Peter Austin who authorized the purchase of a vehicle by the County Emergency folks without Board approval.

    His justification?

    We had money left in the budget (paraphrased but close).

    McCann is on the Board because the voters chose her over Schuster.

    We need a GOP loyalty oath with teeth!!

  6. Doesn’t a ‘Temporary Project Manager’ position mean that the position is temporary and not a permanent position?

    That the intent is the position will be eliminated when the project is done? How do they calculate that it’s a savings if it’s made permanent?

    I wonder if the resolution to approve this position states how long it is supposed to be for.

  7. I don’t think it was an accident that the resolution was posted so late.

    The section of the original resolution that mentioned “the new Office of the Chairman” had nothing to do with the matter under consideration, but Jack wanted some sort of backdoor acknowledgment from the Board that his job description is somehow different than that of his predecessors.

    I think he was hoping that it would go unnoticed while the Committee debated the meat of the resolution.
    It’s the same office, Jack, and you don’t have executive powers.

  8. There were over 79,000 nitwits, in this overtaxed wasteland of a county, that voted for this clown.

    Send out the bill, the people earned it.

  9. McCann doesn’t have HR experience, and even admitted the only reason she was on HR is because the other D6 board members didn’t want to be on the HR Committee.

    Why was McCann selected to be HR Committee Vice Chair?
    Politics. Not to best serve residents.

    And her thoughts on morale….

    “When we do this to 2 personnel, people in personnel, as we have, um, I think that it doesn’t do much for the morale of the entire, um, number of employees we have, because many of them might say, and that goes for the uh, um, excuse me, department heads as well as other workers, that uh, ‘gee, they’ll find an excuse to go after something they don’t like with us.'”

    No current employee that was hired through the proper process should have any worries of being let go.

    The only ones who should be worried are those that were hired improperly- Oliver and Bridget; along with Administrator Austin and HR Director Cheryl Chukwu for not following code and hiring processes.

  10. Pete-your job is not “to make it work.”

    Your job was to ask the County Board if two new positions could be created for the Chair.

  11. Kopsell needs a primary opponent. I’ll walk my precinct for anyone who challenges him.

  12. Has the “round mound” filed a lawsuit yet?

    Not sure what it would be for but that’s the average response when a lawyer does not get he / she wants.

  13. Jack thinks that he’s in charge of the whole county, so I guess he’d have to sue himself.

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