Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen spoke out against the county's hiring-freeze policy for the first time Wednesday, calling for its complete overhaul as county board members committed to a thorough review and revision of the ordinance.
The ordinance has been under a magnifying glass since Lauzen created a new, $52,000-a-year position in the county's animal control department and filled the unadvertised job with political ally Robert Sauceda.
Lauzen suggested the board throw out the hiring freeze as it currently exists and create a new hiring guideline based on hiring practices that fit the slowly improving economy.
"This is so full of holes that it is almost comical, and it has quite an effect on the management of 1,250 employees," Lauzen said. "There are so many things wrong with that policy that it certainly needs to be addressed."
Lauzen said there are as many as 10 different flaws with the hiring freeze. Among them is the provision that the freeze doesn't apply to departments run by independently elected officials, such as the clerk, treasurer and recorder. Another flaw, Lauzen said, is not having a provision that allows for emergency hires without county board approval.
But even with those changes, the hiring freeze may be too flawed to remain in place, he suggested.
"Rather than trying to fix something that is so clearly busted up, we might want to step back and say what are the human resources best practices for the economy that we're in," Lauzen said. "This action was taken five years ago. It was because of what was going on in the economy. Those economic conditions have changed."
The county human services committee, led by Democrat Cristina Castro, will undertake the full review of the policy. Board members agreed Wednesday they don't want to vote on the overall hiring freeze until the language is cleaned up and the concerns addressed.
Castro said she was willing to take on the task as long as all county officials are aware that the existing hiring freeze, flawed or not, is still in place even during the review. Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Joe Cullen confirmed for the board that the policy will remain in place unless a specific vote is taken to terminate the hiring freeze.
The as yet unaddressed topic of Sauceda's hiring should be tackled as the overall issue heads back to committee, county board member Mark Davoust said later. He said it is clear to him that Sauceda's hiring violated the current hiring freeze. He wants his colleagues to consider building consequences for hiring freeze violations into whatever revisions are made, he said.
"My ultimate goal is to make sure we do this thing right this time," Davoust said.
Lauzen has repeatedly defended Sauceda's hiring as necessary to solve the financial problems in the animal control department. He has said a consensus of board members in a closed-door meeting a couple of months ago gave him the authority to hire Sauceda. Several board members who were part of that meeting dispute that.
Castro's committee will next meet on March 20.