With only nine members answering the roll call Tuesday night (and a tenth arriving a little late), McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks was able to avoid a vote on two resolutions that would overturn his decisions.
The first was whether the County Board would eliminate the two patronage jobs, which are occupied by ghost employees doing tasks quite far from their job title’s description.
The second was to rescind the Request for Qualification for an agent to seek a firm to lease Valley Hi.
Franks ruled there were not quorums and adjourned the meetings.
The names of the fourteen County Board members boycotting the meeting (or in the case of a reported conflict, Donna Kurtz) follow:
- Michele Aavang, h: 815-648-4210, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Kay Bates, h: 815-276-5073, w: 815-385-4300, email@example.com
- Chris Christensen, h: 815-459-7206, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Joe Gottemoller, h: 815-382-9940, w: 815-459-5152, email@example.com
- John Jung, h: 815-338-6201, JPJung@co.mchenry.il.us
- Jim Kearns, w: 847-875-4852, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Don Kopsell. h: 815-459-7206, email@example.com
- Mary McCann, h: 815-568-1061, MTMcCann@co.mchenry.il.us
- Bob Nowak, h: 847-977-5516, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mike Skala, h: 847-669-3804, w: 815-337-5550, email@example.com
- Larry Smith, h: 815-353-8043, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Chris Spoerl, h: 847-516-6495, w: 847-382-3206, email@example.com
- Paula Yensen, c: 815-404-3918, firstname.lastname@example.org
All are Republican, but Yensen.
The ten who showed up are
- Yvonne Barnes
- John Hammerand
- Jim Heisler
- Michael Rein
- John Reinert
- Jeff Thorsen
- Chuck Wheeler
- Tom Wilbeck
- Craig Wilcox
- Mike Walkup
Kirk Allen of Edgar County Taxpayers told of improper activities of the McHenry County Emergency Telephone System Board.
He said there is no provision in state law for this part of McHenry County government to have a credit card or legal services other than the State’s Attorney.
In addition, he pointed out that the Board had made grants that were not authorized by state stature.
This was said after the meeting was adjourned.
“It’s sad when your elected officials don’t come to listen to you.”
Craig Wilcox presented a timeline to the members of the public who stayed after the meeting:
Chronology for Public Consideration
Nov 8, 2016…General Elections
Dec 5, 2016…New board is sworn in, later that month 2 new hires brought on in process that was neither transparent nor open to the public…Administrator later deems it “Unique situation”.
A Public Relations and a Communication Specialist are hired to fill a Temp Program Manager position and a Utility Coordinator position. Neither do the work associated with the job
Dec 20, 2016…First meeting…consider restructure of standing committees…Human Resources was slotted to be removed, amendment ensured committee was not eliminated
Jan 10, 2017…at Internal Support & Facilities meeting Peter Austin discusses the hirings, Chairman identified the “need”, Peter found a “solution”, acknowledges need to clean up the job descriptions
Jan 12, 2017…Committee on Committee discusses possible membership for HR Committee, becomes contentious issue
Jan 17, 2017…HR Committee not put on the County Board agenda to be established
Feb 13, 2017…process started to call a Special Meeting to Amend Resolution R-201612-12-358 recommending appointments to the Standing Committees…goal is to force the establishment of the HR Committee, which is being delayed by Chairman, and which was not projected for the Feb 21, 2017 County Board agenda…Chairman finally elects to add this topic to the agenda, Special Meeting request not submitted
Feb 21, 2017 County Board agenda…Chairman finally elects to add this topic to the agenda, Special Meeting request not submitted
Feb 21, 2017…HR Committee finally selected and established, meets for first time Feb 28, 2017
Mar 15, 2017…HR Committee digs into hiring aspects during meeting. Peter [Austin] states we have an organizational history of not bending rules, claims hiring didn’t add head count or add to the budget, and admits County Board should approve items “when it is unique”
Mar 15, Apr 12, & May 4, 2017…Reclassification of the Job Descriptions Resolution presented to committees in a way to “legitimize” the personnel books
At Mar 15, 2017 HR Cmte…During extensive discussion Peter Austin admits he did not “select” the candidates for the positions, he quote “didn’t want to get in way of elected official” endnote to hire his own staff…this is contrary to 55 ILCS 5, as an elected Chairman does not have the authority of Constitutional Officers.
Resolution Fails HR 4-3, month later fails ISF 6-1, almost another month goes by and in Finance resolution fails to receive motion/second
Throughout April and May many, many letters and postcards from residents concerned about the hiring process, urging board to discuss the issue and resolve it according to County policies
Apr 25, 2017…HR discusses need for alternative resolution to resolve hiring issue, since reclassification had failed in HR and ISF, and was yet to be considered in Finance. Prevailing
belief that there is a requirement for the County Board to provide “Authorization” for Peter’s hiring actions as is detailed in the County Administrator Ordinance, section B.10.Staff, as passed by resolution O-201107-12-032. Attempts made to include alternative resolution as future topic for May 23 HR Cmte Ordinance verbatim words:
“The county administrator may employ staff to assist in the performance of these powers and duties…UPON AUTHORIZATION of the McHenry County Board”
May 16, 2017…Chairman fails to include reclassification resolution on agenda for board meeting…avoiding the responsibility of the board to “Authorize” the actions
May 23, 2017…HR Cmte Chair fails to put alternative resolution on agenda, majority of the committee members provide consensus for Special HR meeting to be called for Jun 13, 2017 per County Board rules in Article 1, Section 3. HR Cmte Chair agrees to press forward with alternative resolution (1:27:20 of recording) and offers the date of Jun 13 (1:30:00 of recording) Jun 13, 2017…HR Cmte Chair unilaterally, with pressure from above, fails to schedule HR Special Meeting, “willfully & knowingly breaking County Board rules”, expressing concern that even if this meeting occurred the Board Chairman would not include it on agenda for Jun 20, 2017 County Board meeting
Jun 26, 2017…Law & Gov’t Cmte meeting…Jun 5, 2017 minutes acknowledge that Chairman Franks “still approving” committee agendas, contrary to Board processes…Chairman Franks joins end of meeting to discuss issues…alleges he is not required do put things on agenda he
considers illegal Jun 27, 2017…HR Cmte Chair explains why no Special Meeting, also alludes to illegality of alternative resolution…majority of the committee members provide consensus to seek SAO on legality of alternative resolution. Later this same day the request was provided to HR Cmte
Chair and County Administrator to submit to State’s Attorney…no action taken by either…reiterated request again on Jul 6, 2017…still no action…again emailed on Jul 9, 2017 Jul 12, 2017…Request finally sent to State’s Attorney office after delays where HR Cmte Chair admits to not reading county email for 10 days. Chairman Franks adds his own very explicit questions to the request
Jul 25, 2017…HR Cmte
Aug 15, 2017…nothing put on County Board agenda by the Chairman regarding alternative resolution or the SAO…board member attempts to initiate discussion of the issue, no real discussion allowed by Chairman The lack of open discussion drives decision to pursue last recourse to County Board members and that is to call for a Special Meeting of the County Board in accordance with Illinois Statute 55 ILCS 5/2-1002, and the County Board rules, Article 2, Section 2, Rule 2.2
Aug 22, 2017…HR Committee cancelled…
This chronology indicates the extensive 8 month process that many county board members have undertaken, following the County Board rules, to try and bring this issue to a full County Board vote. The efforts of conscientious board members to bring transparency to county processes, to include the public concerns, to drive adherence to existing County Board rules and policies, and ultimately to have the County Board vote for or against the hiring process has culminated in this Special Meeting. Once the board votes, hopefully the action will be resolved one way or another, and we can get back to finding ways to govern in a manner that will instill trust and pride in our actions with those that matter most, the residents of McHenry County…
Wilcox bemoaned that “a majority of our Board members decided not to see the light of day.”
He praised those who attended the meeting, saying they could see county government in action.
Someone from the audience corrected him: “inaction.”
Wilcox told of a friend who asked him what was wrong with getting a leasing agent for the Valley Hi Nursing Home.
“If you were selling your home, wouldn’t you get a broker?”
“Would you have done that without asking your wife?” Wilcox replied.
“What if you were working at Valley Hi,” he wondered. Wouldn’t to have a right to know what the county was doing.
“What if you were an 85-year old resident?” Recorder of Deeds Joe Tirio added. “Would you be afraid you’d be kicked out on the street?”
A man from the audience said the following:
“We know for a century the County Board Chairman didn’t need a [any employees] and now we need two?”
One of the Edgar County Taxpayers guys offered some information on the McHenry County policy that only the Board Chairman, County Administrator and Committee Chairman could request State’s Attorney’s Opinions.
He pointed out that State law says “any county officer” can ask for an opinion.
“You are a county officer,” he said to the County Board members who remained after the meeting.
“He is obligated by law.
“That policy is not in conformance with state law.
“State law is in your corner.
“We’ve been down this road in many counties.”
Wilcox clarified what Franks claimed in the meeting, that the resolution about eliminating two positions “was to fire two legally hired employees.”
“The positions had been vacant more than 90 days. They should have been eliminated [according to County Board policy].
“He used the term ‘legal hires’ [quoting the State’s Attorney]. That doesn’t mean they followed County Board Policy.”
Turning to the Valley Hi resolution, Wilcox bemoaned the lack of notice of the Request for Qualifications to the County Board. He pointed out that nothing was said about it at the Valley Hi Operating Board, which was held the night before the RFQ was posted on the County Purchasing Department web site.
Indeed, a constituent who watches that site informed a County Board member, who spread the word.
“What we wanted was an open and transparent discussion.”
Jeff Thorsen took the floor and laid out the minimum County Board involvement when a Federal lobbyist was selected.
The Board was given only one choice after a secret two-person committee selected that firm.
He said he didn’t want the same process in determining what to do with the nursing home.
“I happen to be one of the people who things we should explore all options, [but] the public is invested in Valley Hi.
“How often does a county board privatize a politically charged [service]?”
One of the Edgar County Taxpayers noted that there are “plenty of Attorney General’s opinions” on leasing.
Referring to his colleagues who skipped the meeting, Thorsen said,
“These people need to be having that discussion. They’ll be saying, ‘We’ve made that decision by not showing up.”
Wilcox read emails about Valley Hi from Austin and Franks.
Austin said he forgot to tell the Operating Board the night before the RFQ was posted.
Franks said there was “inaccurate blogging,” but did not specify where. [Is is nice to again have evidence that Franks reads McHenry County Blog.]
In the Chairman’s email to County Board members, he said, “Nothing will happen to Valley Hi without extensive County Board discussion and debate.”
He added that any change “would have to be improved…and be subject to a vote by the voters.”
Former McHenry County Board member Ersel Schuster was upset.
“You need to have this discussion before this crap happens.
“This is absolutely disgusting.”
Schuster was defeated by two County Board members who were no shows.
“I totally agree that there needs to be a full and open discussion,” a man in the audience added.
There was a short discussion about compensation of the firm to be selected to search for alternative management.
Austin pointed out that the firm picked would be paid “from the lease.”
Probably because the patronage hirings and leading out Valley Hi had only been covered on McHenry County Blog, a person asked if the Northwest Herald were going to write a story.
Wilcox told of having a 20-minute interview yesterday, but that no article appeared before the meeting.
The Northwest Herald reporter in the room noted that both pre-meeting and an afer-meeting article had been planned, but that “breaking news” bumped the preview article.
He said that a front page article would report on what happened at and after the meeting.
= = = = =
The Edgar County Taxpayers said they would be making the four-hour trip to McHenry County for the next Special Meeting. They got home about 1:30 this morning. If a meeting lasts longer, I’m wondering if anyone has two empty bedrooms in which they could crash before driving back to Edgar County, which is south of Danville.