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updated: 10/27/2010 11:59 PM

Kane County sheriff hopefuls look at issues

The candidates air some differences

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Kane County sheriff candidates proved both a little harder and a bit softer than some previously expressed position statements at a League of Women Voters forum in Batavia Wednesday night.

A question about red-light cameras led the forum. Both candidates have already taken positions on cameras: Don Kramer is against the cameras, and incumbent Sheriff Pat Perez has not only supported red-light cameras publicly but also approached the county board about installing more cameras at intersections Perez identified as problematic.

That request never went anywhere as the county board embarked instead on a process of rewriting its rules for such cameras.

On Wednesday, Perez did not bill himself as a full-fledged fan of the cameras.

"It's really not up to Mr. Kramer or myself if red-light cameras are implemented in Kane County," Perez said. "I don't have a problem with them, but that is not at the forefront of what I do as a sheriff."

On a question about ending the practice of paying to ship inmates out of the county when the new jail is full, it was Kramer's turn to put a new twist on his position.

Both Kramer and Perez have said they support opening the mothballed expansion space at the jail. But Kramer came out publicly Wednesday night against Perez's idea of contracting with federal agencies to fill any unused beds with prisoners at an expanded Kane County jail.

Perez believes the county could make a profit at the jail with such a plan. Kramer said that plan makes no sense.

"I don't quite see the logic of trying to bring more prisoners into Kane County even if you do make more money," Kramer said. "We need to look at some solutions within the jail system."

Kane County Board candidates on a separate panel made a couple of statements that might be construed as false or misleading Wednesday night.

Incumbent Jim Mitchell said twice in answers that the county has already done away with all lobbyists. That's not technically true. Although Mitchell has requested that the health department dump its lobbyists, Raucci & Sullivan Strategies, that has not occurred.

The county board's Public Health Committee on Tuesday approved a $2,166 payment to Raucci & Sullivan for lobbyist activities. Health department Executive Director Paul Kuehnert did tell Mitchell he would talk to Raucci & Sullivan about ending the contract.

Mitchell also joined incumbent Barb Wojnicki in stating that the county has a balanced budget. While technically true as of Wednesday night, that might not be the case by the end of the year.

Finance Director Cheryl Pattelli informed the Finance Committee just last week that year-end requests for additional money by the sheriff's department will put the county in the red unless other departments end up spending less than budgeted and/or tax receipts come in higher than projected.

The county board also finished 2008 in the red, and possibly finished 2009 in the red as well.

The 2009 budget year balanced out only when some 2009 costs for the sheriff's office were shifted to the 2010 budget and 26 sheriff's department employees received an end-of-the-year furlough.

But the county paid back all the money it would have saved in the furlough when those 26 employees threatened to sue.