Jack Franks’ Republican opponent for the McHenry County Board Chairmanship wrote the following comment under the article about the ambition Franks’ revealed on Justin Kaufmann’s WGN radio show on Wednesday night:
Here is how county government and the county chairman position works in a broad sense.
The county government does basically four things:
(1) provides the justice system, ie, courts, sheriff, jail, states attorney, public defender, probation;
(2) maintains and improves county owned roads (not township roads, state roads, or federal roads);
(3) provides a health department which does such things as restaurant inspections and tries to prevent or control outbreaks of infectious diseases;
(4) does planning and zoning for the unincorporated areas of the county and enforces zoning regulations for those areas (not inside of municipalities).
This is obviously not all inclusive and there a many areas where the county government can interface with other units of government, such as providing Motor Fuel Tax and RTA funds for road improvements, serving as a conduit for state and federal grants and the like.
There are an number of ancillary services such as mental health, conservation district, housing authority, animal control, nursing home, veterans affairs etc.
The County Board provides oversight but does not directly run any of those things, all of which are independent to varying degrees.
Departments such as Planning and Development, and the Department of Transportation are managed by staff who do answer to the Board, but most of the others are independent and somewhat free standing.
The Health Department, for example, is overseen by the Board of Health, not the County Board.
The same is true of the
- Mental Health Board
- Valley Hi Operating Board
- Conservation District
- Housing Authority
- Fire Protection Districts
- Drainage Districts etc,.
Other offices are led by directly elected public officials such as the
- States Attorney
- Clerk etc.
who do not answer to the Board but only to the voters.
The Board’s role in most of those is limited to appointing members of their governing boards when their terms expire, and saying yea or nea to their overall budgets each year.
- school districts
- library districts
- park districts, etc
have nothing to do with county government and County Board has no more control over them than if they were on Mars.
Insofar as the County Chairman is concerned, his or her powers are limited by the Board and the Board Rules, which can be changed at the will of the Board.
County government is not a corporate monolith with a CEO. It is more like a bowl of jelly beans. Each jelly bean is separate from every other jelly bean and has varying degrees of independence and interdependence. The Chairman is not Willy Wonka.
In the last revisions of the Rules, moreover, the Board removed the most significant aspect of the Chairman’s power, which was the appointment of the committee members who would recommend chairs and vice chairs for the various Board committees.
A Chairman who is not also a Board Member cannot even vote on that committee to break ties, nor can he vote on anything else.
There is virtually nothing that the Chairman can do without the Board’s consent.
The Board can also further revise the Rules and reduce the Chairman to someone who just chairs two meetings per month. They don’t even have to allow him to have an office in the building.
The County Board Chairman is not a dictator, but a facilitator.
His/her job is to try to build consensus around issues.
To do that the Chairman must have the support of the Board, not be it’s antagonist.
An example on point is the recent vote on non dedicated roads.
Chairman Gottemoller spent several days on the phone with Board members this past weekend trying to convince them that there were too many legal and financial pitfalls in the proposal that came out of the Transportation Committee.
The Board was supposedly evenly split going into the meeting.
The final result, however, was to approve the Committee’s plan, and even the Chairman was forced to change his vote in the face of the overwhelming Board sentiment.
That’s the way it works.
The Chairman is at best the first among equals, and if he is not a Board Member and doesn’t have a vote, he is not really even an equal.
If the Board is so inclined, it can render the Chairman essentially superfluous.
You catch more bees with honey than with sulfuric acid.