In an admitted attempt to do an end run around the township supervisor, the Grafton Township board has hired what is likely the township's first administrator.
The board voted 4-1 (Supervisor Linda Moore was the sole dissenting vote) to appoint Pam Fender, a Huntley village trustee, to the new post at an annual salary of $35,000 plus benefits, officials said.
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In hiring Fender, a well-known and vocal presence in the Huntley area, trustees reiterated complaints that Moore has stymied the normal flow of business in the township, such as preparing meeting agendas and paying bills.
Fender, trustees said, will be empowered to complete some of those tasks as well as oversee the creation and implementation of new programs.
"Moore consistently refused to fulfill the business requests the trustees were asking," Trustee Rob LaPorta said. "We're trying to turn the productivity engine back on, and Pam is going to be the one to do it."
Moore blasted the move, calling the hiring a waste of money and an attempt to spy on Moore and her staff. With Fender's hiring, the township will essentially be paying for two executives; Moore says she makes more than $54,000 plus benefits.
"It's just another waste of the taxpayers' money," Moore said. "I'm not sure why they did it other than they want to have a person in my office."
Moore denied trustees' allegations, saying, "I would like to know what they're talking about specifically. Everything is a general innuendo."
The hiring of an administrator is rare but not unheard of for a township of Grafton's size, officials said. Some villages, which typically oversee larger budgets and more essential functions, choose to go without an administrator.
But when municipalities do hire administrators, they typically have education or experience in public administration - something Fender lacks.
Still, LaPorta said Fender's community organizing skills and experience as a trustee qualifies her for her new job.
"My background is getting people together - to get a project off the ground and make it better for everyone," Fender said.
Still, she acknowledged getting anything done may be a challenge, given the mutual distrust between Fender and Moore.
"It's like going into the lion's den," Fender said. "I'm expecting it to be nasty, but at the same time, I have a lot of ideas."