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updated: 2/28/2013 6:13 AM

Pending Kane County hiring freeze changes would screen new hires

Kane board committee wants to rewrite policy

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Suggested changes to Kane County's hiring freeze policy would specifically prevent, and perhaps punish, any future hiring using the same method that put a political ally of Chairman Chris Lauzen's on the payroll.

County board members began a review of the hiring freeze following the hiring of Robert Sauceda as the billing manager for the animal control department without a vote. Sauceda campaigned with Lauzen as a member of the Reform Kane ticket in last year's elections. Sauceda lost his primary contest against fellow Republican Mike Kenyon.

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Lauzen then presented Sauceda as the only candidate for the newly created $52,000 billing manager position to Health Department Executive Director Barb Jeffers.

A county board committee Wednesday appeared to agree all hirings for any new positions should first get approval from the county board. The Kane County state's attorney's office said that requirement is already called for by the hiring freeze, though the language is vague. Board member Cristina Castro renewed her call Wednesday for specifically stating in the policy that new hires must be approved by the board. It met with agreement from Finance Committee Chairman John Hoscheit.

"We are pretty close to saying that makes sense because our budgets are pretty tight right now," Hoscheit said in an interview.

Hoscheit also raised the idea of including some language about penalties for violating the hiring freeze policy. He is not yet proposing such a change.

"It hasn't been necessary to this point," Hoscheit said. "We've had cooperation. Ultimately, when it comes to a department's budget, that's where the accountability comes in.

"But theoretically, a violation would be grounds for reprimand in a manager or director's employment interview. Right now, if there is a situation where there is noncompliance, then a board member could raise that, and we would address it as we see fit."

Hiring without county board approval -- and leading to a major budget shortfall -- was a main factor in spawning the lawsuit between the county board and Deb Seyller, the former circuit court clerk. The county board has no power over an elected official, such as the circuit court clerk, to prevent hirings. The board does, however, set the budget for the office. In contrast, the board oversees both the budget and operations of the animal control department.

Board members will debate changes to the hiring freeze, as well as the value of keeping the freeze in place, at another committee meeting next week that will be led by Lauzen.

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