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posted: 5/14/2013 4:58 PM

Kane County hiring freeze changes called out for 'gaping loophole'

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All eyes will be on the number of temporary employees and consultants hired in Kane County during the next six months as county board members Tuesday approved what some of them deemed to be a hiring freeze change with a "gaping loophole."

The county board for several weeks has considered changing the hiring freeze policy it put in place when the economy tanked. The onus came after Board Chairman Chris Lauzen hired political ally Robert Sauceda as an emergency, temporary employee in the animal control department. Lauzen deemed the hiring an emergency because the agency fell several thousands of dollars behind its revenue projections. Not all county board members agreed the situation was an emergency, and further review of the Sauceda hiring revealed it subverted the hiring freeze.

Revisions to the hiring freeze agreed to by several board committees Tuesday didn't pass the sniff test for some members of the full county board.

Board member Mike Donahue said the revisions address some of the ambiguities with the original hiring freeze. Donahue said the changes also create a new way to undercut the underlying principle of the hiring freeze -- keeping a low head count during tough economic times.

"There is a gaping loophole," Donahue said. "You can create new positions in the hiring freeze if you make them temporary. This reminds of being grounded as a kid and then trying to find exceptions to the grounding so you can get out of the house. Either we have a hiring freeze or we don't. This new ordinance is a hiring slushy."

The notion of temporary employees is only covered in the hiring freeze when they are emergency hires. But board member Mark Davoust pointed out the recent job posting for a temporary "community outreach coordinator" and a "community outreach assistant" by Lauzen with no notice nor approval given to or by the county board.

"I think we have more work to do with this policy," Davoust said.

Lauzen said he posted those jobs because he has no one on his staff who can research the best ways to give county residents "reasons why people stay and live here." Adding another layer of complexity, Lauzen said the jobs are six-month, contractual hires, not temporary county employee jobs. That's a key distinction because county policy currently allows Lauzen to engage in contracts with a value of up to $30,000 with no county board review or approval.

Lauzen said that spending freedom was key to his office being able to think and act outside of the box if necessary.

"We do need to have a certain amount of latitude," Lauzen said. "In the private sector, we would be celebrating initiative and decision making."

County board member John Hoscheit bridged the gap in pointing out that even the revised hiring freeze calls for a review of the policy every six months. He said that would be the time to possibly re-examine temporary and contractual hires.

"Given the hiring freeze, whether it's temporary or permanent, I think that violates the spirit of the hiring freeze," Hoscheit said. "It is something we should consider, but that is something we can talk about in the future."

The majority of the county board agreed in approving the proposed hiring freeze changes by a 16 to 5 margin. Joining Donahue and Davoust as "no" votes were county board members Maggie Auger, Mike Kenyon and Doug Scheflow.

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