Kane County Board members continued to balk at the pending appointment of a political ally of Chairman Chris Lauzen into a $65,000 staff position Tuesday despite renewed attempts to ease concerns.
Lauzen first tried to appoint Robert Sauceda animal control director in December. County board members rejected 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.
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Lauzen tried again last week to appoint Sauceda, but county board members put the appointment on hold to further investigate Sauceda's qualifications.
The county board's Public Health Committee Tuesday took up the debate. The committee oversees Sauceda's current work as a billing manager with animal control. Lauzen created the role after the board first rejected Sauceda's appointment and had Public Health Executive Director Barb Jeffers hire Sauceda.
Committee member Myrna Molina said Lauzen's hiring of Sauceda after the board rejected the appointment is one of her biggest concerns.
"If everyone who had applied for the (administrator) job had six months to do the job, they all would have been on an equal playing field," Molina said. "Unfortunately there is a political thing in the air now that we didn't ask to be put in. The air of how things happened clouds the transparency that we want to create in our government."
Molina said she also wants a closer look at how the administrator job description changed from when Lauzen first tried to appoint Sauceda to the most recent job posting in August. Molina said the original description included preference for a candidate with a master's degree and a public health background.
There is also committee support for Sauceda.
County board member Susan Starrett said Sauceda has a passion for the job and has gotten the job done where others have failed. She pointed to animal control failing to make a $93,000 fund transfer to the county last year for debt incurred in building the animal control facility.
"It was an embarrassment," Starrett said of the missed payment. "The actual person that has (since) been in there has proved he can collect the money. To me, that's the bottom line."
Lauzen has made similar statements in support of Sauceda. Lauzen, Sauceda, and Starrett ran under the "Reform Kane" banner in last fall's elections. Starrett said Sauceda was a stranger to her before she toured the animal control offices.
"I didn't know anything about him at all," Starrett said.
Committee member Deb Allan said she also doesn't feel she knows Sauceda. She wants to meet with him and hear his vision for how he will improve the agency beyond debt collection before making up her mind. Allan was part of a full committee that vetted candidates the last time animal control had a full-time administrator. However, the administrator the committee selected quit after less than a year on the job. The position has been vacant ever since.
"I wish the process had been more one that I expected having been part of the review process before," Allan said. "It would have provided more continuity for me and allowed me to have a feeling for the scope of the job. I still have in my mind a differentiation between someone who is going to guide the office and someone who is going to bring in the money."
The rift and a procedural mix-up resulted in the committee not making a definitive recommendation on the appointment for the full board to consider. Lauzen has said he wants a vote up or down on Sauceda in November. Sauceda's contract as billing manager expires in December.