Part 1 can be read here.
Continuing the questioning of McHenry County Administrator Peter Austin, Human Resources
Board member Craig Wilcox said,
“You exercised an authority that the County Board is responsible for, that we do spell out in [your contract].
“You admit that you [did this at the request of Chairman Jack Franks].”
Wilcox asked State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally to comment.
“The authority would be through Mr. Austin, who is to provide for the Chairman,” Kenneally said.
He said he didn’t want to offer an opinion about “a legal question that the State’s Attorney has not been asked.”
(Committee Chairman, the County Board Chairman and the County Administrator can ask the State’s Attorney for legal opinions, which do not have to be made public.)
Committee member Tom Wilbeck wanted to know why the decision on the hiring had to be made by the end of December.
Austin said that Chairman Jack Franks was “quite adamant he wanted to get these people in. January 1 was the target.”
Wilbeck observed that approval of the resolution would “set a precedent for another emergency to get something done.”
“I don’t think it’s precedent-setting.
“We don’t bend the rules very often, but this was an atypical situation, pretty unique.”
The Administrator then turned to the argument contained in the memo accompanying the resolution (also not released until late in the afternoon of the day before the Human Resources meeting):
“We are not adding to headcount, not raising the budget.”
“I want to believe that,” Wilbeck said.
Mary McCann, a consistent Franks’ supporter chimed in.
“I see this as part and parcel of administering the administrative development which comes as part of [an at-large elected Chairman].
Wilcox wondered if the County Administration had done “due diligence” before hiring the two.
He wanted to know if the two positions filed were valid ones.
He asked whether the positions should not have been vacated, if not filled within 90 days.
If so, Wilcox suggested that both headcount and the budget would be increased by the hiring.
Michael Rein, who led the effort to save the Human Resources Committee after Jack Franks took action to eliminate it, had two points:
- “You stated this should go before the County Board. Why didn’t it go before the County Board? In December we had no committee meetings. That was because of the Chairman, not the Board members.
- “The ordinance doesn’t even signify what these two new hires are [supposed to do].”
After another question by Wilcox about the 90-day policy, Austin pointed out, “Hitting the 91st day does not automatically invalidate a county position.
“All our rules say that…[It depends on whether they] are actively trying to fill them.”
Austin continued that there may be a good reason to hold a position open.
He explained that the IT Department had decided to handle its open position by combining the duties with other jobs.
Wilcox pointed out that policy stated that a department had to be “actively trying to fill” a job for the 90-day rule to be ignored.
Austin explained the Department of Transpiration was struggling to fill the position (which is financing half of Communication Specialist Oliver Serafini’s salary).
[The only evidence of activity on behalf of McDOT was a two hour tour in January.]
Donna Kurtz pointed out that the two jobs were “completely re-configured,” which “logically doesn’t make sense.
“The 90-day policy makes sense when we’re hiring like to like. [If the position is “redefined, it is not like-to-like and not in keeping with our whole accountability approach.”
Austin re-iterated that hiring the two would cost less than if the originally described jobs had been filled.
Another member made a comment I did not catch, but Austin’s reply was, “I agree, but I had to acknowledge this was a pretty unique situation.
“I was confronted with a pretty unique situation and I found a way to do it.
“Whether or not you accept it is the question.”
“People aren’t really being honest about what’s going on,” Kurtz said.
“There was plenty of opportunity for open, honest dialogue–a simple email just to be honest and open.
“This casts a dark cloud on the integrity of the whole process.”
“What bugs you so much is that this isn’t a normal situation.”
“That isn’t acceptable to me,” Kurtz replied.
“Why don’t we do it the normal way?
“Now we’ve set the part for this to continue…if this goes through.
“It’s just not acceptable.”
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