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updated: 4/11/2014 5:20 PM

Kane County Board wants power to remove political appointees

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Kane County Board members want the authority to remove appointees to various local boards if the behavior or performance of those appointees proves to be substandard. But the board will need a little help from state lawmakers.

Members of the county board's legislative committee voted to support pending state legislation spawned by a questionable resignation in Lake County last year. Jeneen Smith-Underwood spent only four months as the executive director of the Lake County Housing Authority before voluntarily resigning. The questions arose when she received a $122,000 check that Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawler said didn't "smell right." The full circumstances surrounding the resignation never became public, but Lawler pushed forward a new code of conduct for such appointees.

At least a handful of board members want the same policy in Kane County. Senate Bill 3552, which is co-sponsored by former Kane County chairman Karen McConnaughay, would provide a legal path for that policy. It allows the county chairman, with a two-thirds majority of the county board, to remove any appointees placed with their authority. The bill passed the Illinois Senate 55-0. It awaits movement in the House or new life in the next legislative session.

"I saw this and thought it would be appropriate to support given our position of wanting accountability, fiscal responsibility and transparency," said Maggie Auger, chairman of Kane County's legislative committee. "This would give us a little bit more power over appointees appointed by the county chairman."

Kane County Supervisor of Assessments Mark Armstrong also spoke in support of the legislation. He said the bill provides two important accountability tools. For one, the county board must vote with a two-thirds margin in support of any appointee a county chairman wants to remove.

"So if you had a county chairman who said to a member of the board of review, 'I want to get all my buddies property tax breaks. You won't go along with that; you're gone,' the county board has to agree there is a real cause for that action," Armstrong said.

Likewise, its just as important to actually have the authority to remove a member of the board of review, Armstrong said.

"Let's say you had someone who was appointed and then never showed up and just collected the check," Armstrong said. "There's nothing you could do. You'd have to wait two years to appoint someone new."

The bill could also prevent a repeat of the situation Kane County had in 2011 when McConnaughay asked Metra Director Caryl Van Overmeiren to resign, and she initially refused.

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