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updated: 12/5/2011 2:24 PM

Aurora Township supervisor under scrutiny

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  • Christina Campos

      Christina Campos

 
 

Questionable payroll advances and an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint have Aurora Township trustees scrambling for more control over the woman who seems to be at the center of it all.

The first official sign of trouble came with an outside audit of township finances in November 2010. The audit found Supervisor Christina Campos gave herself two payroll advances totaling $2,000 without informing any other township official. Trustees questioned Campos over the course of three meetings for what they deemed to be "inappropriate" behavior. They also took a vote in March to officially censure Campos and condemn the behavior. Campos was the lone "no" vote on the censure.

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Since then, the four trustees have put in place a new policy that requires two trustees to look over the payroll checks before they are issued.

But that was only the start of trustees taking a closer look at how Campos operates. In October, Campos fired Human Resources Manager Betty Lambert after she ran a salary and wage report on employees.

"She just walked into my office and said, 'Pick up and leave,'" Lambert said.

From Lambert's perspective, she was fired because she noticed there were no set salary ranges for any of the nonelected township positions. As a result, it appeared employees closest to Campos received much higher salaries than others, Lambert said. Lambert also noted she was earning $7 an hour less than the previous HR manager despite having comparable qualifications and experience. Lambert said she did not have a good relationship with Campos during the 16 months she worked there.

"If she liked you, you were in," Lambert said. "If you contributed to her campaigns, you got paid more. I really believe that this township supervisor is bad for the taxpayers. She is reckless with their money."

State records don't show Campos as ever having an official campaign fund for financial contributions.

Lambert said she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for wrongful termination and an equal pay act violation.

The EEOC would neither confirm nor deny the existence of a complaint. Such complaints don't become public record unless and until the EEOC finds grounds to file a lawsuit against the township. Township trustees and Campos acknowledged they are aware a complaint exists. Lambert said she filed the complaint to spark an investigation into her termination because she wants her job back.

The township hasn't had a human resources manager since October.

"With all the good things that townships have done, I'm disappointed that the things coming about are so negative," Campos said via phone interview.

Asked about her payroll advances to herself and the resulting censure, Campos requested to continue the interview at a later time, though she didn't call back.

Lambert isn't the only former employee who said they felt wronged when they were fired by Campos.

Marc McGowan said Campos fired him in the parking lot shortly after he penned a letter to Campos complaining about discrimination and office harassment. At the time, McGowan was a general assistance case manager, connecting financially struggling township residents with help, such as rent assistance to avoid eviction. McGowan said another employee serving as Campos' chief of staff after helping Campos during her election campaign repeatedly referred to him as a "gangbanger" in front of other employees, frequently opened his mail, and one time confiscated a court document from him and shredded it. When he'd had enough and complained, Campos fired him with no explanation, he said.

"I had never been punished for anything," McGowan said. "I had never even had a one-on-one conversation with Christina the entire time I was there. She totally blew me off until then."

McGowan's termination went largely unnoticed by trustees. But when Lambert was fired, trustees started asking questions about how and why it happened. They recently voted to put another new rule in place that bars Campos from hiring or firing anyone without board approval.

The next step, according to Trustee Dolores Hicks, is to find out how much money township employees make and why.

"The only thing that I'm really concerned about is this salary issue," Hicks said. "I want to know who got raises and how someone's salary ends up a certain amount."

That's because of that salary and wage report created by Lambert before she was fired. The Daily Herald ran a report in August showing Campos has the second-highest salary -- $86,864 -- among suburban township supervisors. Trustees said that salary was set by a former township board before Campos became supervisor. Before she became supervisor in 2009, Campos served as a township trustee for four years.

Of the elected officials, township Assessor Davis Offutt's salary is about $89,000, Highway Commissioner John Shoemaker makes about $78,800 a year, and township Clerk Herb Hill makes about $14,500 per year. The four township trustees are paid about $7,300 a year.

Aside from the elected positions, trustees said Campos, until now, has determined the salaries and raises of most township employees.

Shortly after Campos became supervisor, Leticia DeLeon was hired as the township's comptroller. Lambert's report indicates DeLeon will receive a salary of about $73,000 this year.

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