Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay is enlisting the help of county board members in a pending lawsuit that targets her personally for raises given to county employees several years ago.
Jim MacRunnels, a political rival of McConnaughay, filed the lawsuit last year. The suit claims McConnaughay doled out raises to 13 high-level employees without the consent or knowledge of county board members.
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McConnaughay has repeatedly defended the salary increases as part of restructuring of the county administration that consolidated departments and heaped more responsibilities on the employees who received the pay bumps. She's also said the county board gave permission for the raises in approving the county budgets.
Members of the county board's Executive Committee approved a resolution Thursday that says board members are aware of the raises and the process used to give the salary increases, and that they approve of both. The purpose of the resolution is to eliminate the basis for MacRunnels' lawsuit.
"We either litigate this and spend taxpayer dollars on litigating what is clearly a politically motivated lawsuit, or we respond specifically to the issue raised at the appellate level and move forward," McConnaughay said.
She added that the pending lawsuit draws into question the practice of allowing all the department heads the supervisory authority to set the salaries of their own employees. The fact that McConnaughay is the only department head named in the lawsuit proves the lawsuit is tainted with politics, she said.
"It's unfortunate that we are spending taxpayer dollars on this issue," McConnaughay said.
But not every county board member agrees. Board member Drew Frasz voted against the resolution Thursday. He said he doesn't buy into the idea that voting in favor of a budget equals signing off on every pay raise in the county.
"That's an argument that somebody makes when they really want to nitpick," Frasz said. "If they really expected a freshman county board member to come in in 2008 and suggest that we reduce the pay for department heads, that's disingenuous. I'm an employer myself. When times are good and you give raises, you can't just go back when times are bad and take them back. I will not retroactively vote on a raise for somebody that occurred when I wasn't even on the board. I don't want to participate in rewriting history."
MacRunnels said Thursday that he expects to be back in court July 16 to seek a change of venue. He said if McConnaughay would admit she gave the raises illegally it would go a long way in making the lawsuit disappear.