Illinois Leaks Calls Out County Administrator Peter Austin and Illegalities in McHenry County 911 Comission

Edgar County Watchdogs, whose publication is Illinois Leaks, has written a second article about its visit to the McHenry County Board last Wednesday.

It’s article, published with permission, can be found below:

McHenry County Administrator – Two step shuffle

McHenry County (ECWd) –

When you pay a person $195,881.00 to be “responsible for managing the cost-effective delivery of county services for more than 300,000 residents”, you might expect him to know what services are under the hat of the County Government he is responsible for.

After the special county board meeting on August 23rd, I took to the podium to expose some findings that the board should be made aware of.

As is evident in the video, Franks (County Chairman) had no interest in listening to anything I had to say.

During the discussion of leasing out the county nursing home, it was clear the county intends on circumventing the bidding process in their push to hire a broker to do the job of finding a private entity to lease the nursing home to.

My questioning of the process begins at the 1:00:27 mark of the video.

Note how the County Administrator, in response to my question on bidding, first claims they are doing this under the Professional Services, which does not require bidding.

But after being called out on the fact a “broker” is not listed under the Professional Services Selection Act, the two step shuffle begins.

He shifts from no bid requirement under the PSSA to it is going out for bid: (“It’s out for bid” – 1:01:35 mark of the video).

I challenge County Chairman Franks to put the taxpayer’s interest at the forefront and utilize the Local Government Electronic Reverse Auction Act which takes all the cronyism out of no bid contracts and drives the cost to the taxpayers down.

I suspect they will ignore this opportunity to save even more taxpayer dollars, which makes us wonder, why would Franks vote YES for this law and then not use it?

When I raised the issue with the claim they know what they are doing is not true, the Administrator tells me that the Emergency Telephone System Board (ETSB), and I quote; “They are their own local government” (1:03:30 in the video).

Oh Really?

  • A single county ETS Board is not denominated a body politic and corporate. Consequently, the entity could not sue or be sued in its own name.
  • Although an ETS Board is granted certain statutory powers exercisable only by its governing board, the powers and duties of a single county ETS Board are defined by the county:
  • The funding of the ETS Board is also dependent upon the county since the Board has no independent powers of taxation. (only recently changed to the State Police)
  • The fiscal relationship between the ETS Board and the county is similar to that which exists between the county and other county agencies. For example, in Opinion No. 80-032, issued September 25, 1980 (1980 Ill. Att’y Gen. Op. 127), Attorney General Fahner determined that the Care and Treatment Board for Certain Mentally Deficient Persons (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 91 1/2, par. 201 fil;;. seq.) was an agency of the county.
  • Because the county board exercises authority over a single county ETS Board through its powers to create the Board, appoint its members, and control the level of its funding, it appears that the Board is an agency of the county.
  • Although it possesses certain powers which only the ETS Board may exercise, the Board is not an autonomous, independent unit of government.
  • Accordingly, as a county agency, it appears that it is the duty of the State’s Attorney to provide legal representation to an ETS Board which is established by the county.
  • Because a county ETS Board is, as previously discussed, an agency of the county, it appears that contracts for the 911 telephone system would be subject to the competitive bidding requirements of section 5-1022, unless they are exempt under the professional services exception.

I pointed out during my talking points that there were expenditures of the ETSB which are not legal, one of those being the hiring of an attorney, as we did find legal expenditures listed in the most recent ETSB report to the State Police.

The AG opinion referenced above in bullet points, and found below or at this link, confirms the State’s Attorney is the legal representative of the ETSB, so there should not be tax dollars being spent on legal fees for ETSB.

From Attorney General Neil Hatrigan’s October 9, 1990, Opinion to McHenry County State’s Attorney Tom Baker.

While the Administrator tried to shuffle around the issue by pointing out who sits on the board, as if that matters, it became evident that he, much like so many other counties in this state, had no idea that their ETSB is, in fact, part of county government and under the control of the county.

When an Administrator attempts to white-wash citizen concerns with comments that are inconsistent with the law, it should concern you.

It should concern you, even more, when he claims they follow the law, as the fact of the matter is, he had no clue what the law was pertaining to this agency of county government, who spent money on legal fees, which would show they are “not” following the law as was claimed.

No Mr. Austin, ETSB is not their own local government as you claimed.  

Cost of county administrator giving opinions on county government $195,881.00

Cost of Edgar County Watchdogs disproving the $195,881.00 opinion: Priceless!


Illinois Leaks Calls Out County Administrator Peter Austin and Illegalities in McHenry County 911 Comission — 10 Comments

  1. Two guys from Edgar County, Illinois accomplished what the McHenry County government refuses to do: set up a video camera in the County Board meeting room and post the recording on YouTube.

    May McClellan, the McHenry County Clerk, who is a candidate for Circuit Court Judge, is recorded telling Kirk Allen of Edgar County Watchdogs on that YouTube video at the 24 second mark:

    “There’s no video. We’re working on it.”

    A Republican candidate for Circuit Court Judge told Kirk Allen the county is working on videotaping board meetings.

  2. These guys are just what is needed to point out discrepancies.

    I wonder what they would say about Jack Franks’ mileage reimbursements being consistently the same amount month?

    Franks’s and Austin clearly lost their composure when confronted by them. I

    was impressed by their knowledge.

  3. Isn’t it sad that we are such bumpkins here that we couldn’t do this ourselves? Thank God for good neighbors that truly want to help. Then again, think about how they got started. Maybe it will be our turn next to enlighten the next bumpkin county.

  4. Cindy – agreed. I just hope all of their expertise falls on the right ears. I wonder who found them? Just grateful they are involved.

  5. There are two main parts to the article.

    1. A Request for Qualifications for brokerage services to “..assist the county in outlining the options, lease or other disposition…” of Valley Hi, the county owned nursing home.

    The information in quotes was from the county issued Request for Qualifications RFQ 17-37 found at the county purchasing website and here:

    2. A little known entity of local government called the Emergency Telephone System Board (ETSB), which is in involved with 911 service.

    Kirk Allen of Edgar County Watchdogs is the preeminent watchdog expert in Illinois on ETSB’s and (along with his partner John Kraft) on local government in general.


    First is the process the county has chosen to use to select a broker to explore the leasing of, disposing of, or other options for Valley Hi.

    That bleeds into a conversation about ETSB.

    Let’s start at the 58:30 point in the video where a teacher asks Craig Wilcox about the Request for Qualifications.

    Time permitting, it’s worthwhile to watch the entire video.

    Craig Wilcox gives his perspective on the Request for Qualification process then asks for the Peter Austin’s opinion.

    Peter Austin replies at 59:55 – “In this instance there probably wouldn’t be any expenditure ever, because it’s a broker, if it ever came to be, would be compensated through the lease.”


    County Board member Jeff Thorsen at 1:00:00 – “Which, when you’re not really, really seriously considering getting to that state where you actually have a transaction, you’re really putting that poor broker out to come out, do some work, set up a RFQ, spend some time that they could be doing to spend some time to put some food on their table.”


    Kirk Allen at 1:00:30 – “Regards to your RFQ and this whole process, if it comes to the board for resolution to vote on and you have one person to select from, how are you getting around the requirement when you’re spending more than $20,000, or $30,000 by statute, of not having it bid out?”

    Jeff Thorsen at 1:00:43 – “Peter?”

    Peter Austin at 1:00:50 – “First of all, that would be Legal Qualifications for Professional Services.

    We’d be fine there.”

    Kirk Allen at 1:00:57 – “Professional Services of what?”

    There’s a Professional Services Selection Act, and that’s not listed under that.”

    Peter Austin at 1:01:09 – “Sir, we would be following a very legal purchasing process, if we continued down this path.”

    Kirk Allen at 1:01:13 – “That’s not what I said.

    You said it was under the Professional Services.

    There’s a Professional Services Selection Act, and it lists three criteria, three occupations…”

    Peter Austin at 1:01:21 – “Surveyors?, Architects, …”

    Kirk Allen at 1:01:23 – “and Engineers.

    A broker is not one of those three.”

    Peter Austin at 1:01:29 – “Fair.

    And that’s why we’re not using that Professional Services angle.

    We don’t even need to go out to bid.

    This is out to bid.

    This is a public request for …”

    Kirk Allen at 1:01:36 – “Oh, you’re not going out for bid.

    You’re going out for…”

    Peter Austin at 1:01:37 – “It’s a Request for Qualifications Sir.”

    Kirk Allen at 1:01:38 – “There’s a big difference for Request for Proposals versus…”

    Peter Austin at 1:01:42 – “This is not a Request for Proposal.”

    Kirk Allen at 1:01:48 – “So it’s a Request for Questions?

    Peter Austin at 10:01:49 – “Qualifications.”

    Kirk Allen at 1:01:50 – “Qualifications.

    And my question, when it comes to the board as a resolution [at that moment Peter Austin turns to speak to two Sheriff Deputies] to hire that contractor, what was the bidding process?

    It wasn’t followed.”

    [Peter Austin stops speaking to the police officers and turns back to the room.]

    John Kraft at 1:02:03 – “And you said there was a committee to select, a committee of two, what were, where were there…”

    Craig Wilcox at 1:02:10 – “We don’t know what that evaluation committee was going….”

    John Kraft at 1:02:11 – “Where was that? in the meeting minutes.

    And all that stuff has to be open in public.

    Not in private individual, in somebody’s back office sweatshop, it doesn’t happen that way.”

    Craig Wilcox at 1:02:23 – “That’s the concern.”

    So Peter, would you like to close down…”

    Peter Austin at 1:02:30 – “No.

    Craig, staff has a very prominent role in all sorts of Professional Services or other bids.

    We have a process here, it’s quite legal, and quite professional, and I’d love for you to take a look at our purchasing ordinance.

    And we have the ability as staff to make recommendations to committee for a dump truck, professional services, or a broker, or whatever it is.

    Now, in many instances, the committee wants to be more involved.

    In this instance the committee certainly would be more involved.

    It’s not one size fits all.”

    Kirk Allen at 1:03:04 – “Oh I understand that totally.

    What’s your position here?

    Are you a board member?”

    Peter Austin at 1:03:08 – “I’m the County Administrator.”

    Kirk Allen at 1:03:10 – “County Administrator.

    Well, in regards to a professional process and everything, i just pointed out numerous illegal actions going on with your ETSB.

    So I appreciate your pointing out, that, you know, hey, it’s all been legal.

    But there are some things that are not.”

    Peter Austin at 1:03:25 – “I’m not familiar with what you are referring to.

    The ETSB.

    You know that they are their own local government and they report to the …”

    Kirk Allen at 1:03:31 – “Actually, they report to the county board.”

    Peter Austin at 1:03:32 – “Correct.”

    Kirk Allen at 1:03:33 – “They are under the county board.

    They answer to the State’s Attorney for legal counsel.

    And they are spending money outside legal authority.”

    Peter Austin at 1:03:38 – “They report to their own board.

    Their board…”

    Kirk Allen at 1:03:42 – “Right.

    And there’s numerous AG opinions.

    I’ll be happy to forward them to you.”

    Peter Austin at 1:03:45 – “You don’t need to do that.”

    Kirk Allen at 1:03:46 – “They answer to the county board.

    They can’t be sued or sue.

    And that’s the key criteria as far as are they an agency.

    They can’t sue or be sued.

    If I want to sue your ETSB I sue the County, because they are county government.

    They are not their own independent government.”

    Peter Austin at 1:04:02 – “The ETSB consists of a mixture of county board appointees…”

    Kirk Allen at 1:04:07 – “You bet.”

    Peter Austin at 1:04:08 – “…and village appointees.”

    Kirk Allen at 1:04:09 – “You betcha.

    I understand ETSB inside and out.

    They are not a separate local government.

    That is not true.”

    Peter Austin at 1:04:14 – “Ok.”

    Kirk Allen at 1:04:15 – “They cannot sue or be sued.

    Ask your State’s Attorney.

    This agency would be the one that gets sued.

    So when you tell me…”

    Peter Austin at 1:04:22 – “I’m not telling you anything sir.”

    Kirk Allen at 1:04:24 – “You did.

    You told me that this was a legal process, that you have all these professionals, in essence, you are telling me you know what you are doing.

    I just gave you examples that somebody doesn’t know what they are doing.”


    The meeting goes on for a bit.


    Pause to reflect on both issues.

    Here seems to be one way the Request for Qualifications could play out.

    From the opinion of Peter Austin and Jack Franks (Peter Austin seems to be aligned with Jack Franks), without county board approval or evaluation of the broker candidates, the county can select a broker, who could in turn recommend that Valley Hi be leased.

    If the County Board approves the leasing of Valley Hi through a resolution, the broker would be compensated not by the county, but by the leasing company.

    In that situation, the elected county board members had no say in selecting or compensating the broker.

    But the elected county board members do have a say approving or not approving the broker’s recommendation (lease Valley Hi, for instance).

    The broker can thus be labeled a power broker; meaning someone that is influential in the process, but not a decision maker.

    The county board is not involved in the selection of the power broker.


    The ETSB issue is something that Kirk Allen of Edgar County Watchdogs came across when looking into ETSB’s around the state including McHenry County.

    The ETSB issue is separate from the Valley Hi issue.

    The ETSB seems to be supported in part or whole by a County 911 Fund.

    Information on the 911 Fund follows.


    The ETSB and 911 Fund is included in the 2016 County Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).

    The CAFR has a “911 Fund” which is an “Enterprise Fund” (pdf page 6).

    The org chat has an “E-911” which is in the “Law and Justice” county board committee (pdf page 22).

    “The business-type activities of the County include the Valley Hi Nursing Home (public health and welfare) and the Emergency Telephone operation (public safety).” (pdf page 31).

    “The County uses enterprise funds to account for Valley Hi nursing home and for the Emergency Telephone 911 system operation.” (pdf page 32).

    “The Enterprise fund considered to be major for fiscal year 2016 is the Valley Hi Fund.

    Data for the other enterprise fund, the 911 Fund, is considered to be non major.” (pdf page 32).

    pdf pages 54 – 58, 89, 90, 95, 108, 211 list financials for the “911 Fund.”

    psf pages 113, 114 – The “McHenry County ETSB – PSAP (911 Fund)” is one of 5 members of the “Fiber Consortium”

    pdf page 209 – Enterprise Non Major Fund – “911 Fund (Emergency Telephone Services Board Fund) – to account for funds raised through a telephone surcharge tax on each telephone line in the County.

    The money collected is distributed to this fund net of a small collection charge retained by the telephone company.

    The funds are used to operate and equip a 911 telephone dispatch center within the County area.”

    pdf page 239 – Apparently the county issued 911 Fund Revenue bonds.

    The issue was paid of in 2007.

    pdf page 78 – “Note 6 – Long term obligations”: “Compensated absences, net pension liability, and other post-employment benefit obligation will be liquidated by the Valley Hi fund and the 911 fund.”


    If Valley Hi employees are in IMRF, does state law allow current employees contributing to IMRF to be outsourced as non government employees, and if so, that private company would not be considered an IMRF employer, and thus those outsourced employees would not able to contribute to IMRF?


    Page 22 of the 2016 CAFR is the county org chart

  6. Correction in the 08/29/2017 at 2:11PM comment.

    In that situation, the elected county board members would have a say in selecting but not compensating the broker.

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