Kane board candidates clash over pension, benefits
If re-elected to the Kane County Board, incumbent Mike Kenyon would continue to participate in the county health and pension plans, while challenger Jennifer Barconi says she would accept neither taxpayer-funded benefit, if elected.
Kenyon, a Republican, and Barconi, a Democrat, are vying for the seat in the county's 16th District, which includes parts of South Elgin, Elgin and Bartlett.
Kenyon, 68, a farmer, has been in office for two terms and signed up for both perks.
He had been on his wife's insurance plan at Delnor Hospital in Geneva for 30 years, until she retired as a nurse three years ago.
"Well, I guess I thought I needed the health care," Kenyon said in a later interview. "It was just a nice benefit."
Kenyon maintains a 401(k) account and doesn't get a pension from his brief service in the Army. He said he signed up for a county pension "So I'd have one."
"It didn't sound like it would be a bad thing. Why turn it down?" Kenyon asked. "I believe I earn what I get. I would say that. As a taxpayer, I pay considerable money into the system."
Barconi, 39, a sales director, pledges to turn down both perks because she doesn't think it would be right to take them.
"I feel as though the county board members are part-time employees and I think we need to treat everyone as such and to accept those benefits — there's part-time employees for Kane County that do not get health care benefits," Barconi said.
Barconi admitted her husband's health care plan covers her, but even if the county's plan ends up being cheaper she'll still stay out of it.
"I wouldn't take it because it's not fair," Barconi said. "It's the right thing to do."
Kenyon was head of the Kane County Republican Party for the last four years and today, he's chairman of the county's development committee and belongs to several others.
Barconi recently appointed to Kane County Mental Health Advisory Board and is a delegate for Illinois Women in Leadership. She has never held elected office and ran unsuccessfully for state representative in 2010.
While he does take both benefits, Kenyon insists he's not a freeloader.
Instead of taking a raise, Kenyon forwarded the money to support the Veterans Assistance Commission of Kane County, said John Carr, the group's superintendent.
Carr said the contributions have been coming for several years now, but he couldn't verify the amount — Kenyon says it's $70 a month.
Kenyon accuses Barconi of making "a mountain out of a molehill" over the insurance and pension issue.
"It's a personal choice," Kenyon said of the perks. "It's offered, so actually I'd be a fool not to take it. If that's all she's got to go on, that's not much."
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