The last time Kane County Board members met to discuss the pending lawsuit regarding employee pay raises, Chairman Karen McConnaughay told them she was getting her own lawyer, and board members were on their own. On Tuesday, board members sent McConnaughay a right-back-atcha reply.
McConnaughay has been after the board to pass a resolution that would state the board's retroactive approval of pay raises given to department heads when she reorganized several departments. Jim MacRunnels, McConnaughay's political rival who filed the lawsuit, argues those raises will cost taxpayers $20 million in the long run, a cost board members never approved at any point. McConnaughay contends her reorganization will save taxpayers $30 million by eliminating 100 government jobs in the long run. She believes board members approved that plan several times in passing numerous county budgets.
Tuesday afternoon it was clear McConnaughay didn't have the votes to get her retroactive resolution passed. But rather than cause McConnaughay embarrassment in a direct vote against her, the board decided to table the vote and take a different route.
That route will come in the form of a review of the county's policies governing how raises are given out. Board member Drew Frasz is chairman of the committee that will oversee that review and possible changes.
"I think there's some members of the board who have voiced concerns to me that no one person should have that much power to give out such substantial raises," Frasz said. "It should go through a committee. It should be a group effort. That's why we're a democracy and not a dictatorship."
Frasz said he wishes the lawsuit could be settled without lawyers and the spending of taxpayer dollars. An effort was made to broker a sit-down with MacRunnels and McConnaughay, but it failed, Frasz said.
"We're dealing with a few very strong personalities," Frasz said. "And maybe a beer and an 'I'm sorry' and 'Thank you' would've done just as well. Everybody is human. I don't think anybody would hold it against someone if she said, 'There's a lot of rules. This one I missed. I'm sorry.'"
McConnaughay said the policy review should come with deep thought about what kind of government board members want. Reviewing every raise for all 400 county employees is just not how the county board is set up right now.
"Some would suggest that's micromanaging," McConnaughay said. "If the board wants to be more involved day-to-day, then they need to start by understanding the structure that they have and think about the structure they want."
If the board wants more direct say in the daily operations of the county, members should push forward a change away from a strong chairman setup and toward the hiring of an administrator, McConnaughay said. The board could then directly control the administrator as an employee.