After nine months of promoting a political ally as the man to be Kane County's new animal control director, Board Chairman Chris Lauzen expected enthusiastic support of his appointment Tuesday. Instead, he found himself potentially 30 days away from a second political black eye related to filling the administrator job.
Lauzen tried to name Robert Sauceda animal control director in December. County board members shot down the idea in a closed-door meeting while citing the appearance of cronyism in appointing a person who ran under the same political banner with Lauzen last fall. Lauzen denied any political favoritism was involved.
Following the rejection, Lauzen created a billing manager position in animal control and had Sauceda hired into that role. Ever since then, Lauzen and Kane County Public Health Department Executive Director Barb Jeffers have repeatedly praised Sauceda for making the agency financially solvent. Sauceda's contract as billing manager ends in December. And Lauzen said in July Sauceda was too valuable of an employee to lose. That set the stage for Sauceda to be named animal control director when Jeffers began accepting resumes for the animal control administrator job Aug. 9. She received seven applications. Three people received interviews, including Sauceda.
On Tuesday, Jeffers said Sauceda was the best candidate for the $65,000 position.
"If the person in that role cannot sustain the financial situation, animal control may have to close its doors," Jeffers said in citing financial management as the No. 1 qualification she sought in an administrator.
But board members indicated they weren't willing to just take Jeffers' word that Sauceda was the best option. Several board members said they wanted the board's Public Health Committee to review the recommendation first. But other board members cut straight to the political taint Sauceda's name, to some, has carried ever since December.
"I can't help but feel that this wasn't a completely just process," board member Myrna Molina said. "(Sauceda) already had a leg up. He was pretty much already doing the job. And this wasn't vetted by the committee."
Molina moved to table the appointment for 30 days to allow board members further review of Sauceda's qualifications. The board voted 13 to 11 in favor of that plan.
Lauzen expressed frustration after the vote.
"This is about promoting from within and promoting based on performance," Lauzen said. "There have been a couple of folks who have used this necessary decision to play politics. I think that does a disservice to the taxpayers. But if people want a little bit more time to think about it after nine months of very clear performance, it's their prerogative. They just said wait, I want to think about it some more. They certainly did not say no."