As State Representative, Jack Franks spent eighteen years in Springfield.
If getting rid of the Regional Superintendents of Education was a high priority, he was a failure.
Now, he has the power to produce a budget.
It is, in effect, an Executive Budget.
The type of budget I helped Lyndon Johnson prepare for submission to Congress in 1966.
The difference is that Congress actually plays a BIG role in determining the country’s final budget, while the County Board pretty much has advocated its legislative role.
There are exceptions, for example, deep-sixing Franks’ proposal to create a mid-level “Inspector General,” which would be tasked with doing something like what County Auditor Shannon Teresi does, but with less investigative power.
One proposal that seems destined to pass at tonight’s County Board meeting is to cut Regional Superintendent Leslie Schermerhorn’s number of employees by one–from 3.8 to 2.8 Full-Time Equivalents.
County Board members think this is a position that does nothing but bookkeeping.
The accounting function, according to Franks’ plan, would be taken over by someone under the jurisdiction of County Administrator Pete Austin, who is supposed to report to the County Board, but who has acquiesced, as far as anyone on the outside can see, to Franks’ every wish, starting with hiring to unauthorized patronage workers.
The employee whose position will be terminated handles other administrative duties besides bookkeeping.
Who will pick up that slack is unknown.\
At the Committee of the Whole meeting last Thursday, Schermerhorn addressed the Board during Public Committee time.
Referring to audit exceptions that found her books did not meet Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), she explained that she had found $6,000 to hire a CPA to eliminate that complaint.
But, not until conferring with former County Auditor Pam Palmer and finding that her office could not step into the gap.
“I have always been transparent,” she said.
Referring to an opinion from State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally, Schermerhorn observed that it said state statutes say the County needs to provide “as many assistants as the Regional Office requires.”
She passed out the opinion to County Board members prior to the meeting’s beginning.
If she loses one employee, she said, “I will be force to eliminate some of those services.”
Explaining the proposed budget, Finance Committee Chairman Mike Skala said that County Administration could handle the function the employees whose position is proposed to be eliminated.
“We as the County Board control the budget…”
“When we see areas that could be done differently, we control that.”
He pointed out that the State’s Attorney’s opinion says there is “no case law.”
The Regional Superintendent of Education says she “could sue us in court.
“I think that’s a pretty good idea.
“I’d be willing to take that on.”
Franks took the microphone then.
“I’d prefer not to have a full-blown discussion on this,’ he said.
He said he found the office’s audit “wanting, to be charitable.
“The facts laid out were incorrect.
“We have a fiduciary responsibility.
“Unfortunately, we have audits that show we are about the worst in the entire state on fiscal responsibility.”
Franks claimed that Schermerhorn “broke an agreement,” but did not say what it was.
He said state law “allows us as a County Board to remove a county official from office.”
Franks claimed the State’s Attorney’s opinion was incomplete.
“I don’t think anyone knew of these audits.
“That’s why I brought it forward to her privately.”
Franks then said that he was going to set up a committee to further probe the matter.
Schermerhorn interject that she would be willing to serve on it.
“You will certainly be a witness,” Franks said quite forcefully.
Yvonne Barnes said that it was her understanding that Schermerhorn had agrees to have the “County Administration provide assistance to the Regional Office of Education to fulfill her duties.”
“Leslie was in agreement on that,” she continued.
Barnes said that if the arrangement did not work out Schermerhorn would have the opportunity to come back and ask for reinstatement of the position.
Michael Rein suggested that a standing committee could handle the situation.
“I’m going to put together an ad hoc committee,” Franks seemed to scream into his microphone.
“That’s my decision!”