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posted: 9/27/2012 9:48 AM

McHenry Co. weighing whether to put county executive info online

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The chairman of McHenry County Board's legislative committee said he wants to put information on the county's website about the county executive form of government before voters weigh in on a new form of government on election day.

At its meeting in August, the committee had discussed whether to give information to voters, but agreed to first seek an opinion from the state's attorney's office, committee chairman and county board member Jim Heisler said.

State Rep. Jack Franks was behind the effort to hold a referendum Nov. 6 on whether to convert to a county executive form of government. Will is the only county in Illinois that has gone to that form of governance, in which an elected county executive manages day-to-day operations and has veto power over the county board.

The Aug. 30 memo from Assistant State's Attorney Jana Blake Dickson doesn't specifically address putting information on the website but encourages county officials and employees to "err on the side of caution" when discussing the referendum.

It also reiterates that officials and employees can advocate for or against the referendum passage only on their own time, and not on the county's compensated time.

The legislative committee has not met since the memo was issued. It next meets on Oct. 11.

Heisler said any information provided on the county's website would be strictly factual and would steer clear of opinion. He pointed out that's what the county did when it put information on its website regarding electricity aggregation, which was in a referendum question on the ballot this past March.

"I don't think there is anything wrong with putting it online, with the county saying, 'Here's what an executive can do, here are the controls, here is how you become an executive, the terms of office,' all these basic things," he said.

Finance committee vice chairman John Jung said he might agree with the idea, as long as the county takes pains to stick to the facts and word everything carefully. "I wouldn't even say that Will County is the only county to have (the executive form of government)," he said.

The bottom line is, voters must be properly informed before they go to the polls, Heisler said. "I don't want to drop the ball and just have the voters go to the ballot and say, 'What the heck is this?'"

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