If Robert Sauceda tries to transform his job as the billing manager for Kane County Animal Control into a gig as the director of the agency, he'll have the powerful backing of county board Chairman Chris Lauzen.
Last week, the preliminary 2014 Animal Control budget eliminated Sauceda's billing manager position. Health Department Executive Director Barb Jeffers said Sauceda is doing a great job in bringing in revenue for the department, but not enough to keep both a billing manager and hire a director. That seemed to mark the end for Sauceda's controversial tenure in the county.
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Lauzen directed Jeffers to create the billing manager position and hire Sauceda only after the county board rejected Lauzen's push to hire Sauceda as the Animal Control director. Sauceda and Lauzen ran under the same political banner in last year's election.
Should Sauceda decide to apply for the director job again, Lauzen said he will again back him because Sauceda has proved he deserves the job.
"When you're looking for a business person to run an operation, one of the first criteria I would use would be can you bring in the revenue?" Lauzen said. "I think he has distinguished himself there."
Lauzen said Sauceda has also shown a clear enthusiasm for the agency and its mission. But beyond that, Sauceda has shown genuine affection for his fellow Animal Control employees. For example, Lauzen said Sauceda came to work on Saturday specifically to inform Lauzen and Jeffers that three Animal Control employees had all lost loved ones within a span of about 12 hours.
"You can't teach somebody to care," Lauzen said. "You either do or you don't, and he has that in his nature."
Lauzen also clarified that the agency will be looking for an administrator to be the director, not an administrator who is also a veterinarian. The most recent administrator served in that dual role, and Jeffers budget presentation listed the position as an "Administrator -- Veterinarian." Sauceda does not have veterinarian credentials. However, the county board's public health committee voted in January to make the position a straight administrator and contract out for veterinary services. Lauzen clarified Tuesday that the director position will not include a requirement for veterinary skills when it is posted later this year.
But vet or no vet, County Board Member Mark Davoust said he's not convinced Sauceda's successes demonstrate director qualities. Davoust was against the hiring of Sauceda for both the director spot and the billing manager position. He said when no one is collecting the unpaid bills, anyone given that task would have shown improvement. As far as the actual dollars, Sauceda has brought in, Davoust maintains a large portion of that is traceable to an increase in the price for animal registration that came online just before Sauceda was hired.
"This support should not come as a surprise to anyone," Davoust said. "This is the crony that he tried to install right out of the gate. When he got forceful pushback from the board, he aborted that. Then, he found a way to circumvent us by creating a new position and installing Sauceda in that instead. Now, as the billing manager position becomes extraneous, he is using that to say we've got a guy who's already been on the job. Well, I can only hope our search for a new director is done in a way that allows everyone a real chance to vie for the position."