Kane County Board members went into Tuesday's meeting expecting an arm wrestling match over the county's appointee to the RTA board. Instead, they walked out smiling and shaking hands.
Chairman Chris Lauzen nominated Nabi Fakroddin to become the RTA appointee. Fakroddin was one of six finalists selected by a bipartisan three-member panel of county board members who reviewed the applications. Fakroddin's resume lists positions with the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Warren County Highway Department, the SEC Group (a McHenry-based civil engineering firm) and 13 years as the director of the Kane County Division of Transportation.
Every county board member present voted in favor of Fakroddin's appointment. Some of the "yes" votes came with happy surprise. Both going into the appointment process, and on Tuesday, Lauzen acknowledged his initial "obvious bias and preference for one of the people who eventually applied." That person was former county board member Jim Mitchell. Mitchell also served as one of Lauzen's campaign co-chairmen. Those two facts fueled early concerns about political favoritism, possible breaches of the county ethics code and calls for Mitchell and the three other current or former county board members who applied to withdraw from the process. Lauzen referred to the backstage jostling as he explained how his decision-making process ultimately caused him to choose Fakroddin.
"I listened to many people in this process and made the decision yesterday," Lauzen said. "I would ask that we trust each other and the processes a little bit more and treat others the way you'd like to be treated," Lauzen said. "People send me blog things and this call, that call, the rumors, the rancor, the false alarm, the lack of trust -- hopefully as we go through each of these experiences we'll get closer."
County board members Mike Donahue and Phil Lewis were the leading voices against the candidacies of Mitchell and other board members applying. Donahue even withdrew his own application after deciding it would be the most ethical move. Both Lewis and Donahue congratulated Lauzen on his selection of Fakroddin.
"Nabi's resume and application is the one that is most based on a lifetime of professional accomplishment in the area of transportation," Donahue said. "I think your choice to select based on qualifications and experience should be complimented."
Fakroddin was not present at the vote. His application states he will donate 25 percent of the $25,000 RTA board salary to charity. He will also waive the pension and insurance benefits. Lauzen also said he expects Fakroddin to resign from his current position on the Illinois Human Rights Commission. Lauzen also told the board Fakroddin has never made any campaign contributions to him; he's never even hosted a Lauzen campaign sign.
"That's about as full disclosure as you can get," Lauzen said.
After the vote, Lauzen told reporters Mitchell was the only candidate who pledged to waive the entire salary and benefits package if selected. Lauzen has a series of additional appointments to other boards to make next month.