Batnick-Skillicorn-McSweeney Introduce Bill to Allow Comptroller to Withhold Legislative Pay

A press release from State Representatives Mark Blatnick and Allen Skillicorn:

Batinick, Skillicorn file legislation to give Comptroller greater discretion following court ruling on legislator pay

SPRINGFIELD – In response to the recent court ruling authorizing the prioritization of state legislators’ pay over other outstanding obligations, State Representative Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) filed legislation today, House Bill 4026, to give the Comptroller greater discretion when issuing salary payments for members of the General Assembly.

Mark Blatnick

Batinick said this would allow the Comptroller to prioritize Illinois’ other fiscal obligations over legislators’ and Executive Branch officers’ pay.

House Bill 4026 is co-sponsored by Rep. Allen Skillicorn (R-East Dundee) and David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills). The bill follows the introduction of similar legislation filed in the State Senate by Senator Dan McConchie, SB 989.

“There is no reason why we as legislators should be prioritized over the hundreds of vendors, social service providers and agencies who have been waiting months for payment from the state,” said Rep. Batinick.

“This bill seeks to right that wrong by allowing the Comptroller to place the interests of vulnerable children, seniors and families ahead of legislators.”

“Yesterday’s ruling showed a major flaw in Illinois law,” said Rep. Skillicorn, Chief Co-Sponsor of the legislation.

“We need to amend the law immediately to put taxpayers and social services before legislators who refuse to pass a budget with any cuts.

“The fact is, if the political will to make tough choices existed, we could pass a constitutionally required balanced budget in a few days.”

Last spring, former Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger opted to place legislators’ paychecks in line with the other overdue bills, as the state struggled to meet its obligations due to the ongoing budget impasse.

In December, a lawsuit was filed by six legislators [Democrats], arguing for their legislative pay to be prioritized ahead of hospitals, human services organizations and universities that are also waiting for payments from the state.

Thursday, the Cook County Circuit Court ruled in favor of the six legislators, citing Illinois law, which provides a continuing appropriation for legislative salaries. In response, Rep. Batinick’s bill seeks to specifically authorize the Comptroller to delay salary payments to legislators and Executive Branch Constitutional Officers.

Under this proposed legislation, the monthly salary payment to legislators may be delayed if there are insufficient funds in the state’s General Revenue Fund to pay all other obligations within 90 days after a voucher requesting payment is submitted to the Comptroller.

Lakewood Road Program Starts Day Before the Election

A press release from the Village of Lakewood:

2017 Road Improvement Project to Begin April 3

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) recently awarded the bid for the Village’s 2017 Road Improvement Project to Plote Construction, who is expected to begin as early as April 3, 2017.

The project will include the resurfacing of the roadways listed below. In addition, pavement
markings will be used to delineate 5’ bike lanes and 11’ travel lanes along Lake Avenue.

  • Lake Avenue Huntley Road to East Village Limits
  • Pheasant Drive Bard Road to Bardwell Lane
  • Wiltshire Lane S. Shore Dr. to Broadway Ave.
  • Warwick Lane S. Shore Dr. to Lake Ave.
  • Cumberland Lane Lake Ave. to Broadway Ave.
  • Oxford Lane Lake Ave. to Broadway Ave.
  • Essex Lane Lake Ave. to Broadway Ave.

The total cost for the project is expected to be $630,476.69.

The Lake Avenue portion of the project is 80% funded through Federal Surface Transportation Program funds. This leaves 20% of Lake Avenue portion and 100% of the remaining roadways to be funded locally.

Throughout the project, the roadways will remain open to two-way traffic, by using flaggers to guide traffic through the construction zone. However, there will be short periods of time when access to and from properties located adjacent to the construction site will be limited. The Village, contractor, and/or the Village’s engineering consultant will make every effort to provide notice prior to these access restrictions.

Construction signage may be placed in front of homes. Please note, however, these signs will be placed within the public right of way. Per the Village’s Municipal Code, working hours are
permitted from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Monday through Saturday) and 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on
Sunday.

For regular status updates throughout the project or for further information, please visit the Construction Projects page of the Village’s website, village.lakewood.il.us. Any additional
questions or concerns can be directed to Interim Village Manager Shannon Andrews at (815)
459-3025.

Jim Cosler for Mayor of Cary

Franks Loses Second Freedom of Information Request Denial Appeal

Oliver Serafini’s McHenry County employee identification card showing he works for the Department of Transportation as well as for the County Board Chairman.

Bridgett Geenen’s McHenry County employee identification card.

For the second time since he has taken office as McHenry County Board Chairman, a Jack Franks’ denial of a Freedom of Information request from McHenry County Blog has been overturned.

The first sentence of the latest missive from the Illinois Attorney General is

“For the reasons that follow, the Public Access Bureau concludes that the response by McHenry County (County) to Mr. Cal Skinner’s FOIA request violated FOIA. “

The first was when Franks’ FOIA Officer refused to provide photos of his patronage hires Bridget Geenen and Oliver Serafini.

For some reason, after the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Division ruled that such photos should be provided, the County provided black and white copies of their employment badges–more than was requested.

The most recent reversal of a FOIA request seemed simple enough.

Requested was a copy of the text of the speech through whose pages he flipped during his first speech to the County Board.

It was a draft copy the County argued.

It was not in the possession of County government was a second excuse.

Although the County refused to supply a copy of the speech, the reply “asserted that the final version of this document is the recording of the speech that is available on the County’ s website.”

The ruling stated,

The ability of this office to conduct a full review of whether or not the notes are exempt from disclosure pursuant to section 7( 1)( f) is limited by the County’ s failure to provide a copy of the notes for this office’ s confidential review as expressly required by section 9. 5( c) of FOIA ( 5 ILCS 140/ 9. 5( c) ( West 2014)).

In particular, this office is unable to compare how consistent the notes are with the recording ofthe comments that the chairman made at the County Board meeting.

Further, neither the County’ s response to the FOIA request nor its response to this office provides a detailed factual basis from which this office could conclude that the notes fall within the scope of the section 7( 1)( f) exemption.

Unlike a rough draft used in the process of preparing for a speech, it is unclear how a document used to deliver the final, public version of a speech constitutes a preliminary draft or predecisional and deliberative material.

Because it cannot be determined from the information furnished by the County whether the document constitutes a preliminary draft or notes in which opinions are expressed or policies or actions are formulated, this office concludes that the County has not sustained its burden of demonstrating by clear and convincing evidence that the document is exempt from disclosure pursuant to section 7( 1)( f) of FOIA. In accordance with the determinations expressed in this letter, we request that the County disclose the document to Mr. Skinner. [Emphasis added.]

The Public Access Counselor has determined that resolution of this matter does not require the issuance of a binding opinion.

This letter serves to close this matter.

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The complete text of the ruling will be published this weekend.

The Gong Show and Governor Jim Thompson

Chuck Barris, originator of the Dating Game and Gong Show, among many others, just died.

That brought to mind that somehow Governor Jim Thompson is connected in my mind with the Gong Show.

I can’t remember the occasion, but he put a video of the Gong Show in some time capsule.

Go figure.

The internet puts his name in articles with the Gong Show in 1977.

Maybe it was a time capsule when some remodeling of the State Capitol was finished.

Jim Cosler for Mayor of Cary

Of Weasels, Chickens and County Government

These comments were made to the McHenry County Board on Tuesday night by Pat Kennedy on behalf of Diane Evertsen, who is running for the McHenry County College Board with David Schenk  and who was attending a candidates’ night:

Pat Kennedy

It seems to me that sometimes we can get our point across more readily by incorporating it into a story … similar to Aesop’s fables.

Or, possibly, our own version of a Prairie Home Companion and Lake Woebegone.

Conversely, we can look at this the same way we looked at the grade school math problems that started out,

“If a train leaves Boston westbound at 7:00 am, traveling 80 miles per hour, and another train leaves San Francisco eastbound at 9:30 am, traveling 65 miles per hour, at what point and at what time will they pass?”

Didn’t all of us just love those kinds of questions?

Diane Evertsen

Well, so get ready to do the math.

As some of you know, we have chickens.

Our hens are relatively quiet, well-behaved and mild-mannered chickens, and certainly not well traveled or cosmopolitan.

There’s no doubt, of course, that all of them think they’re pretty smart – – – but some of us know better.

So, the other morning it was unusual to hear quite a commotion coming from the chicken coop and we had to go out to investigate.

Well, quite a surprise to find 3 dead chickens, several maimed, and one small weasel wreaking havoc.

Didn’t take us long to take care of the weasel problem, but it was notable that one weasel terrorized 80 chickens.

So, here’s the math problem:

If we could resolve our problem with one weasel within 24-hours, how long should it take 23 chickens to resolve their problem with two weasels?

When you get the answer, give me a call!

Wonder If the NW Herald Got Misled by Jack Franks’ Patronage “Communications Specialist”

Took a look through a Freedom of Information request with what Jack Franks’ “Communications Specialist” got from the State Treasurer’s Office that led to the Northwest Herald’s February 24th story that, what, $134,000 of county money was lying unclaimed in Springfield.

Forwarded the information to our County Treasurer, Glenda Miller, and this was her reply:

Glenda Miller

As for the I-Cash monies…most if not all of these funds are unclaimed funds that were submitted to the State by County Offices per the Unclaimed Property Annual Filing requirements.

For instances, my office submits unclaimed

  • r/e [real estate] refunds
  • jurors
  • disbursing
  • Deposit of Order of Court, and
  • Condemnation that are 7 years or prior

They are not County monies.

Isn’t there some aphorism that advises something that sounds too good to be true probably is?

Jim Cosler for Mayor of Cary

Realtor Terry Pounds Comments Negatively on McHenry Township Assessments

Realtor Terry Pounds offered the following commentary on a property tax relief bill that State Rep. David McSweeney has introduced Saturday:

House Bill 358 permanently freezes property tax rates in Illinois for all units of government beginning in tax year 2017.

I think this would be a step in the right direction however, there is still many steps to fix the financial death spiral Illinois is currently facing.

Myself I am terrified of my tax assessor.

I live in the McHenry township under the Mary Mahady regime and she actually told me that most people in McHenry County are UNDER assessed although we are the highest taxed county in the country just about.

At a point I thought that if I were to fight my property taxes and get them to about where the should be in accordance to the Illinois Statutes

(I am not saying the property taxes are at a reasonable range by any means! I am saying as what they should not be in accordance to Illinois Law.)

I have fought my taxes every year for the last 6 years and every time the assessor throws in extra compatibles that have very different features than mine including some of them being 70 to 80 year newer than mine.

Not only is it bad enough that our taxes are higher than they should be, they are not even fair about the amount they assess them.

My name is Terry Pounds and I am a local Realtor in the McHenry County Area and I am seeing many properties listed at low prices because the property taxes are $10k to $14k.

The homes range in conditions but the properties sit there stagnant as no one can qualify for a loan to buy the homes as the banks only lend on the actual value of the homes.

The the property tax payment per month many times exceeds the mortgage value by over 50 percent or more and this is completely insane.

I don’t know about you guys but I have lost my sense of home ownership and I currently pay over $1000.00 a month to live in my home and that is just the property taxes alone.

Furthermore, people are afraid to buy the home as they are actually afraid of the tax bill that comes with the property and the hell or fire that the local tax assessor may rain down on them once they buy the home.

There is no guarantee that tax assessor would lower the assessed value even is they bought it for a price less than the assessed value.

If you are currently thinking of fighting your property taxes please contact me and I would be happy to run a free market analysis on your homes.

I will give you a free consultation of what steps you could take to bring some relief to your tax bill.

Or if you just had enough and you are thinking of moving out of Illinois like tens of thousands of others Illinois residents are planning or doing, I can assist you with that as well.

Pounds also made the following conclusions about McHenry Township Assessor Mary Malady.  (She is on the ballot unopposed in the April 4th election.)

Mary MaHady is doing a terrible job assessing property values in McHenry Township.

There are many residents leaving Illinois due to her regime’s poorly ran office and inflated assessed values.

Homes values are plumitting under her regime due to over assessed out of range taxes.

Assessments in McHenry Township in 2014 had a margin of error of 21.5%.

See http://mchenrycountyblog.com/2017/02/13/assessment-quality-in-mchenry-county/

I have explained what that means in the article, but let me make on observation here.

The results for the 2015 year’s assessments (taxes collected in 2016) can be found in this article:

Assessment Quality in McHenry County After the Last Township Election

In McHenry Township half of the assessments are more than or less than 21.5% off where they should be.

The other half are between 7.2 percentage points lower than the mandated level of 33.3% of market value and 7.2 percentage points higher than one-third of market value.

Do the addition and the subtraction and you will see how unevenly homes are assessed in McHenry Township.

McHenry Township’s assessments are assessed slightly more uniformly, but still have a margin of error of over 20%.

Taxpayer Candidates for McHenry Grade School Board Holding Corkscrew Pointe Fundraiser Thursday Night

Jan Reimann, Hugo Mercado, Janet Szmkowiak, Kevin McConville , Erik Sivertsen and Mark Jaeger are running together to break the teacher union lock on the District 15 Board.

An announcement about a fundraiser Thursday night for the team of candidates seeking to lower McHenry Grade School District 15 taxes:

“We want to lower your taxes vote the lower half of the candidates (appearing third and forth on the ballot for two year term and the final four for the four year term).

“We want to lower your taxes vote the lower half of the candidates (appearing third and forth on the ballot for two year term and the final four for the four year term)

“Meet the candidates that want to improve the educational outcomes of district 15 students, at a reduced cost to the tax payers of the district.

“The citizens of McHenry are demanding accountability from their taxing bodies, district 15 is responsible for half of your property tax bill.

“The current board of education continues to spend money while only 38% of our students (according to the Illinois State board of education) are fully prepared for the next grade level.

“These candidates do not have a conflict of interest like most of the current board does, our candidates are small business owners not education bureaucrats.

Corkscrew Pointe on the map.

“You have a choice, improve the educational out comes for our children (under the current board only 51% of the tax money makes its way to the classroom), while reducing taxes and improving the quality of life for the citizens of the district.”

When: Thursday March 23rd, 6-9pm
Where: Corkscrew Pointe, 1402 N Riverside Dr. McHenry
Who: Riemann, Szymkowiak, Sivertsen, Mercado, McConville, Jaeger.

District 155 Announces 13 Layoffs

Thirteen teachers were “honorably dismissed” as of the end of the 2016-2017 school year by the Crystal Lake High School District 155 Board of Education on Tuesday night

Crystal Lake High School District 155 Board

Declining enrollment is the reason.

The cuts will have least affect on Crystal Lake South High School.   Only a part-time art teacher is being let go there.

Cary-Grove High School is seeing two laid off, a PE/Health teacher, an English and a Social Science teacher.

Prairie Ridge High School, there will be a part-time social science and full-time math and science teachers who will lose their jobs.

Finally, at Crystal Lake Central High School, a PE/health teacher, a part-time science teacher, a math teacher, a world language teacher and a full-time science teacher will be laid off.

The teachers losing their jobs are

  • Rebecca Adam (Crystal Lake Central High School PE/Health Teacher)
  • David Hartl (Part-time Cary-Grove High School PE/Health Teacher)
  • Laurie Koeppen (Part-time Crystal Lake Central High School Science Teacher)
  • Lauren Krumholz (Not showing on Crystal Lake Central High School’s staff directory, but other internet links indicate that she is a Math Teacher)
  • Alissa Mogavero (Part-time Crystal Lake Central High School World Language Teacher)
  • Benjamin Reiff (Cary-Grove High School Social Science Teacher)
  • Leah Rutkowski (Crystal Lake Central High School Science Teacher)
  • Karyl Shields (Part-time South High School Art Teacher)
  • Jordan Smith (Prairie Ridge High School Science Teacher)
  • Rachel Spolum (Part-time Prairie Ridge High School Social Science Teacher)
  • William Stastny (Prairie Ridge High School English Teacher)
  • Paige Stickle (Cary-Grove High School English Teacher)
  • Kristie Tyler (Prairie Ridge High School Mathematics Teacher)

In addition, Raymond “Corky” Card’s full-time position at Prairie Redge as a PE/health teacher was changed to a part-time job for the next school year.

Earlier this month the McHenry County College Board laid off 19 employees due to declining enrollment.

Lakewood Literature Distributed by Paul Serwatka Surfaces

You can see the campaign literature of Lakewood Village Trustee Paul Serwatka, running for Village President against a write-in candidate, along with three candidates his Lakewood Tax-Fighter Team support below:

Outgoing Village President Erin Smith has reportedly sent letters to some residents endorsing everyone on the ballot and not on the ballot, but running as a write-in candidate, against Serwatka and his allies.

If anyone would care to scan and email it to me, I’ll be happy to publish it. (Or just drop it off at my house, which is on the corner of Lake Avenue and Meridian Street–the corner with the Gate 11 sign.)

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Do you have campaign literature that you would like published?

Email it to McHenry County Blog (email address button on the left hand side of the blog) or mail it to McHenry County Blog, c/o Cal Skinner, 275 Meridian St., Crystal Lake, IL 60014.

Jim Cosler for Mayor of Cary

Plan to Help Veterans in the Court System

A press release from the McHenry County State’s Attorney:

Veteran’s Assistance Commission, TLS Veterans, and the State’s Attorney’s Office to Launch Veterans Track Program

On March 20, 2017, the Veteran’s Assistance Commission (VAC), TLS Veterans (TLS), and the State’s Attorney’s Office will implement the Veterans Track Program designed to rehabilitate and restore veterans charged with criminal offenses in McHenry County.

“As an organization made up of veterans who understand the unique circumstances and experiences of veterans and current military personnel, we are excited about the Veterans Track,” said Sonia Castaneda, a service officer with the VAC.

“We look forward to helping veterans involved in the criminal justice system avoid further legal involvement by linking them to available state and local resources, including: health care services, employment assistance, financial assistance, disability compensation, and education and training benefits.”

“We recognizes that selfless and honorable military service can expose service members to profoundly dangerous and stressful circumstances, leading to emotional and physical trauma, and thereby increasing the likelihood of criminality,” said Kenneally.

“This Program directs struggling veterans involved with the justice system to the extraordinary people at the VAC and TLS who know how to help them.”

Any defendant that is a former service member interested in the Program must first obtain a mental health/substance abuse evaluation. This evaluation is then made available to the VAC and TLS.

Thereafter, representatives of the VAC and TLS will consult with the defendant and recommend treatment and services in the community available to the defendant based on the defendant’s personal history, mental health, living situation, and any other relevant circumstances.

The VAC will share these recommendations with the State’s Attorney’s Office. The State’s Attorney’s Office, as appropriate, will regard the defendant’s prior service as a compelling factor in mitigation.

As such, it will extend a reduced negotiated plea offer (i.e. agreed upon criminal sentence) that seeks to enhance the application of rehabilitative and treatment based measures, as recommended by the VAC and TLS, and minimize the more punitive forms of criminal redress.

Jim Cosler for Mayor of Cary

Kelly Liebmann Takes County Board to Task over Jack Franks’ Patronage Hires

Here is what former McHenry County Board member candidate Kelly Liebmann said to the County Board last night:

Kelley Liebmann

The inappropriate and improper hiring of the Chairman’s Executive Assistant and
Communications Specialist must be addressed post haste.

The avoidance of communication to the Board and manner of approach regarding county affairs by the Chairman, Administrator and HR Director warrant a review.

As Board Members you could be financially liable.

Illinois Counties Code Article 5, Section 5-1013 states:  (55 ILCS 5/5-1013) (from Ch. 34, par. 5-1013)

Neglect of duty.

If any member of the county board of any county in this State shall willfully neglect to perform any of the duties which are or shall be required of him by law, as a member of the county board, he shall, for every such offense, forfeit the sum of $200, to be recovered in a civil action.

Jack Franks patronage worker Oliver Serafini wearing Franks campaign stickers at the McHenry Chamber of Commerce Business Expo.

The Fiscal Budget Policy was neglected. R-200210-12-196 was approved authorizing a county wide budget policy on vacant positions.

Three Items referring to the 90 day time limit to filling positions were ignored.

Also breached was the policy stating,

“If the above rules and guidelines are not followed, the position and budget will be automatically eliminated from the personnel roster.”

The Position Reclassification Budget Directive was also ignored.

Also violated in various ways is R-200305-12-113 the Employee Wage and Compensation System which reads, “all employee positions within the County organization are assigned a grade/range/and rate of pay by the Human Resources Department.”

Oliver Serafini’s McHenry County employee identification card showing he works for the Department of Transportation as well as for the County Board Chairman.

The Salary Administration Policy was bypassed; circumventing the Job Evaluation System and the Job Classification System that were approved by the County Board in R-200802-12-058.

A Position Analysis was not completed.

Position Descriptions were not developed by the Human Resources Department.

Salary Structure policies were not followed. Mid-year New Position Requests were not approved by the Liaison Committee, HR Committee, Finance and Audit Committee and the County Board.

I ask Board Members,

Are you going rectify your neglect of duty and rescind the employment of these two ill-considered hires, or are you going to let the Chairman and Administrator, who are not subject to penalty or liability, further delay action on this matter?