Former McHenry County Board member Ersel Schuster reflects on the Rules changes passed by the McHenry County Board Tuesday night:
And the Answer is… Dictatorship
Since my last post the following question was asked:
“What proposed McHenry County Board Rules changes are cause for concern?”
First and foremost, understand that change is not to be considered a bad concept.
Simply put, it is the rationale for, and unintended consequences of these changes that begs our
At the outset of the 12/4/18 AD HOC Committee meeting on the Rules changes, Chairman Jack Franks stated:
“As you know, I sent out, 2 weeks ago, the proposed board rules changes.”
He went on to state that… “my reason for the consolidation is simple… greater efficiency for the county board… decreased by 25%…and also, cost savings.”
“This proposal has so many advantages…
- “First is fewer trips to the county, which is a savings to you. It increases the productivity among our department heads because they have less time sitting before committees… board meetings as well.
- “It increases the productivity among our department heads because they have less time
sitting before committees… board meetings as well.
- “And third, and most important, it increases our efficiency.”
Not one member challenged one word in these statements.
Most important is that a county administration that crows about their openness and transparency, has once again neglected to make any documentation available to the public for this meeting.
Most generally, information is not even provided committee members until the meeting.
This emphasizes a pattern of contempt and disrespect for the committee members, and the public.
A thumbnail sketch of how and why McHenry County has consistently been ranked at the top of
financially sound Illinois counties can be linked to its method of operation.
This operation has operated as twenty-four McHenry County Board members overseeing 29 specific
departments, agencies and all the intricate elements making up county government.
These elected officials are our eyes, ears, and ultimately our control mechanism over annual budgets in excess of $200,000,000 in tax dollars.
Included has been
- a structure consisting of 12 committees; most committees included 7 members;
- most members were assigned to 3-4 standing committees;
- most committees met twice a month; individual members also act as appointed liaison to various outside agencies; and,
- all the oversight throughout this process culminated in 2 voting county board meetings per month.
The size of this job cannot be understated. County board members are responsible for defending us,
those funding this government, against any one individual, staff member or any number of bureaucrats.
Two years ago, this structure began changing in a systematic way.
Used as the tool to make these changes is the Rule under SECTION 4 – “AD HOC COMMITTEES.”
“The Chairman of the County Board shall have the power to establish ad hoc committees for special projects. Such committee will exist for the life of the project.”
The clause “special projects” is deliberately being disregarded as the standing committees, tasked with the issues, are ignored. Members Yvonne Barnes, Michael Rein, Chuck Wheeler, Craig Wilcox and a few others did their best to identify this misinterpretation… but to no avail.
No longer do we have enough members who grasp what has been happening, much less willing to stand up for the process.
Beginning in December 2016, a series of AD HOC Committees have been called.
The highly questionable interpretation of that simple RULES statement is being deliberately bastardized by one person, allowing wholesale changes to the county board’s business, purpose, and members responsibilities to the public.
Thus far, a few changes to board “Rules,” “Policies,” and manner of doing business… have been exposed to the public and include:
- Without board direction or knowledge, the chairman began “closed-door meetings” with county
employees. Board members and department heads were excluded from the meetings;
- County board voting meetings have been reduced to 1 per month;
- County board standing committees were reduced from 12 to 8;
- Standing committee meetings were reduced from 2 meetings monthly to 1;
- Issuing “legal opinion” from the podium;
- Initiated via the AD HOC committee process, without voter knowledge or vote, the number of
county board members is being reduced from 24 to 18 members;
- Beginning 12/11/18, members’ workload is consolidated into 6 committees that meet once a
- Members are openly threatened with lawsuits when they challenge or question the process.
The message, and the unintended consequences to taxpayers’ is that such actions are methodically
being ratcheted up.
The intended plan is consolidation of control, by one person, over the operation.
Today, the move is from 24 to 18 county board members; reducing the standing committees from 12 to 6; and, reducing all meetings to once a month.
Listening to the 12/4/18 AD HOC Committee meeting it is disappointing to realize that the majority of those people never questioned how one committee meeting a month could possibly provide the insight necessary for them to have a clue what is actually going on inside county government.
Far too many of these same elected officials get snarky if a meeting happens to exceed an hour of their time.
Another insult to taxpayers is that not one person, during the meeting suggested that… all salaries
should be cut in half to match the newly approved structure.
Nor did anyone suggest elimination of the expensive health insurance we are expected to subsidize for them.
While all this may seem benign to some, the unfortunate part is that a next step/goal is to reduce the
size of the county board to 6, single member districts.
A six-member board is much easier for one power-hungry person to control the entire operation.
If we think that annual salaries of $20,000+ and health insurance that can amount to nearly $30,000 [and more] is expensive, wait until fewer members [down to 18 in 2022] whine about putting in more time so they need salaries and benefits in the 6-digit range.
- concocts his plans in the backrooms;
- calls for an AD HOC Committee meeting;
- chooses those committee members who will deliver the desired changes;
- brings those results to the full board famously claiming: I am so proud of the members as I have talked to most and they are in agreement with the proposal.
The pattern of events playing out since Dec. 2016 is the issue.
Like the steady drip of a leaky faucet, following the administrative, structural and Rules changes over this period provides a clear picture of the consolidation of control over McHenry County government.