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updated: 7/10/2012 5:40 PM

Kane County Board tries different approach to term lengths

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Kane County officials determined Tuesday which county board seats on the November ballot will be for 2-year terms and which will be 4-year terms. But in doing so, officials also learned they may have broken the law the last time redistricting of the board occurred 10 years ago.

The board will shrink to 24 seats in November as a result of the redrawing of the district boundaries that followed the 2010 census. That leaves half the seats in even-numbered districts and the half in odd-numbered districts.

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Board members Jeanette Mihalec and Jim Mitchell, who are not seeking re-election, drew slips of paper out of a box to determine the term lengths of the offices on the ballot. Mihalec represented the even-numbered districts; Mitchell the odd-numbered seats. The draw resulted in even-numbered seats having the longer, 4-year term of office. The candidates seeking odd-numbered seats will only have two-year terms before they are on the ballot once again.

The process seemed foreign to many of the longest-serving board members. And that's because it was.

"I was first seated 10 years ago, and I didn't know what term I was running for," said board member Deb Allan. She said the term lengths were determined by a coin flip after the election 10 years ago.

Board member Cristina Castro said the board's recent redistricting task force even stated during its deliberations that the method for determining the term lengths would be a coin flip handled by an unbiased party, such as a judge, after the election.

"So why are we doing it now?" Castro asked.

Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Joe Cullen informed the board that the information discussed during the task force must have been the result of a mistake. State law, he said, requires the term lengths must be set no later than Sept. 1, well before the November election.

Board member John Hoscheit went so far as to support a motion to table the setting of the term lengths until a definitive answer could be provided about the legality of the process.

"It looks like our prior history violated what the state statute was," Hoscheit said. "I would recommend tabling it in order to minimalize the potential for litigation."

The majority of the board decided to go forward and lock in place the results as decided by Mihalec and Mitchell.

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