Walkup Comments on County Board Rule Changes

The following was written by District 3 McHenry County Board member Mike Walkup:

Proposed changes to the County Board Rules will be debated and presumably voted upon at a Special Meeting of the County Board scheduled for this Friday, May 1, at 9 AM.

Mike Walkup

Mike Walkup

As a member of the Management Services Committee both during the previous term when sweeping changes were proposed and largely rejected by the full Board, and as a current member as well of that committee, (who cast the sole No vote in committee on the Rules changes), I wanted to take this opportunity to inform the readers of this blog about what is being considered with reference to committee assignments and Chairmanships of the various committees.

The committee structure is central to the operation of the County Board and with it the County government.

Most resolutions are first considered by one or more committees before being passed on to the full Board for final vote.

As the committees have subject matter expertise in the various areas, and have an opportunity to discuss the proposals in more depth, the resolutions which come out of the committees are generally accepted by way of a Consent Agenda item when they come to the full Board for vote.

Although individual Board members can, and often do, pull some of the Consent Agenda items off for further discussion,  it is rare to see something which had been approved by a committee being ultimately rejected by the full Board.

The agendas for the various committees are set by the Committee Chair, in consultation with the Board Chair, County Administrator and relevant department heads.

If the Committee Chair does not want something to be heard by the committee, he/she can effectively keep it off of the agenda under current rules.  This has happened in more than one instance in the past couple of years.

Therefore, it is like a funnel.

At the mouth of the funnel is the Committee Chair, followed by the committee members.

If something gets stuck in the funnel, it never makes it out the other side unless someone organizes a special meeting, as was done with the initial attempt to place the referendum on the ballot for a popularly elected Board Chair.

This makes the assignment of the Committee Chairs, as well as the filling out of the committee memberships, critical to the functioning of the County Board and with it, the entire County government structure.

Under the present system, the County Board elects a Chair at the first meeting after the general election every two years.

That Chair then designates six people, one from each County Board District, to sit on a Committee on Committees.  (I am informed that in the past this was done by seniority but started being done by the Chair later on  regardless of seniority, giving rise to the present practice of having a hand picked committee).

The Chair is a member of the Committee on Committees but does not vote.

A vote by the Board Chair is superfluous as the Committee on Committees is simply advisory to the Board Chair.

The Board Chair typically presents a list of those persons he/she wants to sit as committee chairs and vice chairs and then throws it up to the committee to pick the remaining members taking into consideration the pretences that have been expressed by members as to their assignments.

There needs to be one member from each County Board District on each committee, and by tradition there have been two members from District One on Transportation and two from District Six on Planning and Development.

The Rules changes that were approved by Management Services this year would change this process by eliminating the Committee on Committees and having the Board Chair, now elected at large, present a list of all committee Chairs, vice Chairs, and members, to the full Board for approval.

If the Board did not approve the list, the Board Chair would go back to the drawing board and present a new list.

If the new list was also rejected, the full Board would develop its own list and presumably vote in favor.

The Vice Chair would be appointed by the Board Chair and would have few ongoing functions.

One effect of this would be that all discussions on committee assignments would now take place entirely behind closed doors with no public meeting of any kind other than the meetings of the full Board.

As it stands now, there is at least a meeting of the Committee on Committees which is open to the public.

Another effect would be that an apparently more or less leaderless Board majority would be able to sit on their hands and reject committee assignments proposed by the Board Chair until it became their turn to submit, and I would expect, approve, their own list.

The Board Chair, however, could head this off by trying to mollify some members by giving them Chairmanships or other rewards so as to secure majority support on either the first or second go around.

In any scenario, this all takes place in private meetings and conversations not subject to public scrutiny.

Query whether the Open Meetings Act would apply.

Even if it does, given that the majority of a quorum for the full Board is 7, members could meet in groups of up to six or fewer at a time in complete secrecy, as well as communicate individually.

This is the Management Services Committee’s proposal.

Now that it has gone to the full Board, however, any member can propose their own amendments and several have done so in writing.

Others can propose further amendments orally or in writing at the time of the special voting meeting on the 1st.

Ken Koehler

Ken Koehler

One such amendment has been submitted by former Board Chairman Ken Koehler, R-District 2.

In his proposal the Board would still elect a Vice Chair and the Vice Chair, rather than the popularly elected Board Chair, would appoint the Committee on Committee members.

This would be a perpetuation of the existing system with the Vice Chair being substituted for the Board Chair, drastically limiting the powers of the latter.

An interesting side effect, however, could follow.

Assume now that we have a popularly elected Board Chair and that the Board has elected a Vice Chair who is opposed to the Board Chair.

The Vice Chair now appoints all of the committees.

That person now has at least ten people who are beholden to him/her plus others who may have been given coveted liason positions such as to the Mental Health Board,  CMAP, Valley High Board, etc.

He/she will effectively command a majority of the Board in opposition to the popularly elected Board Chair.

He/she will effectively be a Majority Leader of the County Board.

Think Mike Madigan.

So that’s where it stands.

Your feedback is requested.


Comments

Walkup Comments on County Board Rule Changes — 13 Comments

  1. Very important decision with not adequate time to deliberate the options, plus there’s no impending event.

    One option is to not take a deciding vote at the May 1st meeting.

    Rather discuss the proposals introduced.

    Post those proposals for 30 day public review.

    Then during the ensuing 30 days, if there are other proposals to be consider, finalize them and post them for review for 30 days.

    Thus a vote could be taken in 60 days from May 1st.

    There’s no reason to rush the decision?

    The public should have adequate time to review the proposals before a vote is taken.

    When the public voted to elect the County Board Chair, the rules one how committee chairs are selected issue was not thoroughly discussed.

    Rather, the County Board Chair was popularly presented by the news papers as the voters electing the County Board Chair, rather than the County Board electing one if its members.

    The public deserves a chance to understand and weigh in on rule changes in a full transparent fashion with adequate disclosure and time to understand the proposed changes.

    Perhaps even a public meeting about the proposed rule changes.

  2. Spot on Mr. Walkup!

    Thank you for clarifying this for the public.

    Now, seriously consider pulling out the 2013 proposed changes to these rules… the ones the power brokers did not want… and lay them out again.

    They do solve the problem and would still be the best bet to prevent McHenry County from falling totally into the mold of Springfield and Cook County.

  3. Agree; why the rush? Public meetings and input over a 60-day period, or longer if necessary, at least give everyone time to understand what’s at stake. Ken Koehler’s involvement gives me concern.

  4. I am asking the County Board to give the public the chance to engage in meeting where we can ask questions and engage the Board in discussion to fully understand the issues at stake.

    I ask to see the 2013 changes that were suggested..These need to be posted for easy access by the taxpayer please.

    Slow down and let he public have the time needed to voice thier opinions.

    Thank you,

    Cynthia Allen Schenk

  5. The Koehler amendment would negate the voter approved referendum on election of the Board Chair at large by effectively taking away most of the power from that position.

    It was not presented to Management Services so it could be vetted.

    The NWHerald reporter was not even aware of it until today.

  6. Cynthia,

    In essence, each district membership (4 members from each of 6 districts) would choose their member for the Committee on Committees.

    That committee would review all 24 members request for committee assignments.

    Then assign these members to the various committees.

    Once accomplished, they would choose the chair and vice chair of the committees and present them to the county board for approval.

    This is about the only way we can break the juggernaut of a few people controlling the entire board.

    As has been, and is being proposed, a potential chairman, can promise chairmanships and choice assignments to get the 13 votes needed to stack the board with “leaders” who then follow the “lemming” theory… following that chairman over any cliff he/she wants them to jump.

  7. Also, you can go to the county website; under the meetings calendar; then go to 2013 meetings to find the Sept 3, 2013 board packet.

    You will find the proposed rules and a recap of the changes under 15.2.G.

  8. CORRECTION: The time of the meeting tomorrow is at 8:15. There is a space for public comment prior to the discussion.

  9. McHenry County Board
    Agenda
    September 3, 2013

    http://mchenrycountyil.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=1&ID=1648&Inline=True

    http://www.co.mchenry.il.us > County Government > County Meetings > scroll all the way down and select see more > 2013 > September 3 2013 9AM County Board Regular Board Meeting > Agenda Packet

    Search on 15.2.G.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    In addition to the Agenda there are minutes.

    http://mchenrycountyil.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=12&ID=1829&Inline=True

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    and audio

    http://mchenrycountyil.iqm2.com/Citizens/SplitView.aspx?Mode=Video&MeetingID=1625&Format=Minutes

  10. Typical Democrat trick: Wait until the last minute to inform the public about legislation or don’t inform the public at all. Too many Democrats on the County Board!!
    Hopefully sanity can return and postpone the vote for thirty days.

  11. McHenry County Board Agenda
    May 1, 2015
    Special Meeting
    County Board Conference Room
    8:15AM
    667 Ware Rd, Administration Building, Woodstock

    The Agenda Packet is 28 pages.

    Cover page (pdf page 1)
    – The Agenda.

    – Was updated April 20, 2015 at 11:46 AM.

    Page 1 (pdf page 2)

    – “Resolution Authorizing Adoption of Amendments to the McHenry County Board Rules.”

    Page 2 (pdf page 3)

    – Memo from Peter Austin, the County Administrator, with the subject, again, “Resolution Authorizing Adoption of Amendments to the McHenry County Board Rules.”

    – States the Proposed Resolution has a Document ID of 4081 “DOC ID: 4081”.

    – “Background and Discussion: The Management Services Committee conducted a full review
    of the McHenry County Board rules last revised on September 3, 2013 and are recommending
    the various changes and revisions.”

    Page 3 (pdf page 4)

    – Continues the Austin memo and self identifies itself as “Resolution (ID # 4081)”

    – Was updated April 16, 2015 at 1:54 PM by Mary Haines.

    PDF page 6

    – Cover Page of the proposed McHenry County Board Rules, April 9, 2015

    The remainder of the Agenda Packet is the proposed McHenry County Board Rules.

    The Board Rules have printed in red on the edge of the document, “Attachment: County Board Rules – 2015 Proposed Revisions and New Format (4081 : Amendments to the County Board Rules).”

    http://mchenrycountyil.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=1&ID=3017&Inline=True

    The change document (identifying deletions from and additions to the Board Rules) is not in this Agenda Packet.

    The change document was in a previous board packet, which was identified in a previous comment under another blog post.

    The proposed Koehler Amendment, which is yet another alternative to how Board Committee Chairs would be selected, is not included in this Agenda Packet, but was identified by Mike Walkup in a previous comment under another blog post.

  12. Just to let everyone know, we did decide to adopt the process of having each member of the Committee on Committees be selected by the members of each District as had been proposed originally in 2013.

    Also we will be continuing to elect the Vice Chair from the membership but that person will not have any expanded powers.

    The Chair will have a vote on the Committee on Committees and will chair that committee, and will also appoint liason positions with consent of the Board.

    The Board will have to approve all of the committee assignments as well.

    I think this is a great step forward and want to thank those who commented here.

    The remarks on this blog were mentioned during the debate.

    Therefore the new directly elected Chair will have the following powers:

    (1) Chair and vote on the Committee on Committees.

    (2) Select laison positions (ie. Mental Health Board, Valley Hi Board, MCCD Board etc.) subject to Board approval.

    (3) Select appointments to the various Commissions and Boards subject to Board approval where allowed by state statute (currently each subject matter committee for that Commission or Board makes recommendations following interviews so that should continue. Some positions such as Metra Board do not require Board approval).

    (4) Prepare the agenda for the full Board meetings and chair those meetings

    (5) Interface with other units of local government and various agencies

    (6) Other ceremonial functions (ie ribbon cutting).

    We also eliminated the provision that allowed the Chair to co administer the county departments on a day to day basis so that will no longer occur.

  13. My hat is off to the board members who supported each of these changes.

    Thank you!

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