County Board Probes and Challenges Franks’ Patronage Hiring at the County

As previously reported, less than 25 days after taking office, newly elected county chairman Jack Franks hired two former campaign workers for patronage jobs that he created, using unauthorized funding sources and untrue job descriptions.  (See article “Jack Franks’ Patronage Hires for Executive Assistant & Communications Specialist.”)

County Administrator Peter Austin and Human Resources Director Cheryl Chukwu.

At Wednesday’s Internal Support and Facility Committee Meeting County Administrator Peter Austin stated that,

“This is not normal and this is not precedent.

“None of this is normal.”

Austin also revealed that in November after the election Franks established that he wanted to treat the office differently and at that time “established his desires” for these positions. (See article “Jack Franks Wants Personal Staff.”)

Austin was then tasked with finding ways to fund these hires since

  • neither Illinois State Statue
  • nor County Ordinances give the Chairman job creation or hiring authority.

Austin directed his staff to use funds from other unfilled positions—

  • a technology project management position, and
  • an Illinois Transportation funded analyst position

that were authorized by the County Board so Franks could create these jobs.

The patronage jobs that Franks created using these funding sources were for his personal Executive Assistant and his personal Communication Specialist.  (See article “Employment Papers for Jack Franks’ Democratic Party Patronage Hires.”

Mike Walkup

County Board Member Michael Walkup called these two patronage jobs

“the most outrageous thing I have seen since I’ve been on this County board.”

He stated he was outraged because Austin did not follow the County’s established hiring process and because it appears there was a conscious effort to conceal these “patronage crony hires” from the County Board.

Walkup also called on Austin to provide justification for the County Administrator to have unilateral authority to create jobs as directed by the County Board Chair.

Donna Kurtz

County Board Member Donna Kurtz added the Franks’ hires

“certainly fulfill the definition of cronyism and patronage.

She said that this whole situation does not make the County government look good in terms of being open, honest, and transparent.

What has occurred is a very “dark mark” on the reputation of County government that previously has been viewed as being open and honest.

She also shared her concerns that members of the community have complained that FOIA requests are not being addressed in a reasonable manner.

Michael Rein

According to County board member Michael Rein, the problem in using the hiring approach described by Austin is that

“these two new jobs that are not even remotely related to the definition of why those jobs were funded in the first place by the County Board.”

Rein also stated that “you have a transportation job with its stated duties and he (the Communication Specialist) is doing communication work and this work has nothing to do with transportation.

Rein said this is a huge issue— “it is almost like fraud.”

Yvonne Barnes

Committee Chairman Yvonne Barnes shared this concern by stating that a highly-specialized computer technical position, as defined in the job description, has been vacant since August, and now is being used for this other position “just doesn’t fly”

  • because it was not the same position authorized by the County Board, and
  • because this vacant position should have been eliminated after being vacant for 90 days per County guidelines.

Rein also mentioned that last week the newly hired Communications Specialist went with Franks on a tour of a local manufacturing facility in McHenry so he could take pictures exclusively of Franks at the factory (even though there were other County officials present).

Rein also stated that he was very concerned that the Franks’ jobs “circumvented” the normal process in which authorized jobs are posted and then interviewed and approved so that the most qualified people in the community can be hired.

Committee Chairman Yvonne Barnes took issue with Austin’s statements implying that the County Board is not involved with personnel and hiring issues and the examples of job hires used by Austin to justify the Franks’ patronage jobs.

She stated Austin was using erroneous examples to justify his actions since

  • these were jobs that already existed,
  • while these patronage jobs did not exist.

Chairman Barnes stated, “It is wrong to use this as part of your case of why it is OK for this to have happened.”

She called on Austin to justify his actions in terms of established County processes and guidelines that do not allow this, as well as his fiduciary responsibility to the county.

“I’m very concerned about people justifying decision-making with statements that can easily be proven false,” Yvonne Barnes, Chairman Internal Support and Facilities, said.


County Board Probes and Challenges Franks’ Patronage Hiring at the County — 12 Comments

  1. Austin is in the hot seat now!

    Somehow the go-along-to-get-along crowd was not assigned to Internal Support and Facilities Committee.

    Bet Franks and Peter are wishing the HR committee assignments had been made at the last county board meeting.

  2. I wonder if any Board members are going to get past the point of expressing outrage and actually try to defund these positons?

    They should also change the rules on the parliamentarian so that the Chairman can only bring in his own guy if no one from the State’s Attorney’s office is available.

    It’s really kind of pathetic that they’ve been allowing Franks to roll over them as much as he has.

  3. Hey Billy Bob, you should go to the next County Board meeting to see Franks’ obstructionist maneuvers in play, and make a public comment.

    After all, it is your government too.

    It is not that Franks is smarter than your Republican County Board Members, it is that he is ruthlessly using his position of authority to bully and intimidate.

    The more of the public who come to express their outrage on Mr. Franks’ tactics the better.

    It will help Mr. Franks’ to realize that there is a price to be paid in the court of public opinion for using County Government tax funds to finance his corrupt tactics.

    In the meantime, I know there are honest County Board Members fighting back.

    Even though it looks easy from the cheap seats to get this fixed, it just isn’t and will take dedicated effort and all hands on deck (including you) to get rid of these jobs and stop Franks’ corruption.

  4. Anyone can listen to committee members discuss their desire to move things along to get many issues resolved (electronic voting, improper hiring, update the board rules) from the committee meeting link below.

    It is apparent Administrator Austin (with some sort of push or guidance from Franks)and Administration is preventing OUR county board from getting to work.





  5. I listened to part of the last meeting, and was really disappointed.

    The Board seemed to either not know or not care that they have the power to overturn the Chair’s decisions.

    A cohesive majority can almost render the Chairman irrelevant.

  6. Agree with your last statement, BillyBob.

    The board members Rule the chair, administrator, NOT the other way around.

    I loved how some of them questioned him and made statements, but not it’s time to Nip It In The Bud!

    Jack Franks only job description should be to run the meetings and get board members water if they’re thirsty.

    That’s IT!

    Let him pay his own campaign lackeys to take pictures of him for his next Jack Franks brochures etc.

    The taxpayers are not paying for that!

    I KNEW he was going to try to turn that county admin building into his personal campaign office!

    Shut that nonsense down!

  7. Thank God there are a few county board members who actually see the problem.

    Now, if they will only make the right moves to correct each and every overstep by this chairman… the rest of us can work on the rest of the board members to get their collective heads screwed down and straight.

    Every board member must realize they do run this show.

    This is no time to play nice-guys and think you can ever keep this monster in check.

  8. Peter just had his contract renewed.

    What cause can be used to dismiss him without penalty?

    Improper (maybe illegal) use of taxpayer funds?

    Insubordination to the Board?

    There are elected lawyers on the Board and we have a State’s Attorney office which is supposed to work for us taxpayer, why is Peter still employed?

    Next, why was the “little Liar” not censured by the Board at the last meeting when he insolently ruled the first Wheeler out of order?

  9. While doing some research I noticed the following:

    County Board member Michelle Aavang is President of the McHenry County Farm Bureau…

    Franks, Gerkin, McKenna have a ‘deal’ with the Farm Bureau:

    “Franks, Gerkin & McKenna, P.C.
    Farm Bureau members receive 20% discount
    on any case where the member would be charged
    by the hour. On contingency cases where our usual rate
    is 1/3 we will charge members 30%. On flat fee cases
    Farm Bureau members will receive a 10% discount.
    19333 East Grant Highway; P.O. Box 5
    Marengo, IL 60152

    Is this quid pro quo for her supporting the “Little Liar”?

  10. Should read:

    “Next, why was the “little Liar” not censured by the Board at the last meeting when he insolently ruled the first Wheeler motion out of order?”

    Sorry, left out the word motion.

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