Robert Sauceda has resigned as Kane County's interim animal control administrator, the state's attorney's office announced early Wednesday night. The resignation ends a stormy tenure for Sauceda and delivers a political black eye to county board Chairman Chris Lauzen, who took extra steps to support him.
Sauceda tendered his resignation at 4:20 p.m. on Wednesday, more than four hours after Lauzen and the board's Executive Committee spent an hour behind closed doors with human resources personnel and Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon. Officials were unaware of Sauceda's intention to resign at that time.
The meeting was the first gathering of county officials following the placement of Sauceda on administrative leave late last week. On Wednesday, McMahon said the suspension was related to "personnel matters" but his office would conclude its investigation on or before Tuesday.
That's the day Lauzen said the county board will take action on to address the situation, but that was before Sauceda resigned.
"Rob no longer works for the county," Lauzen said in an interview Wednesday night. "I do appreciate the positive contributions that he made while he was here."
Asked if he was disappointed that Sauceda's tenure ended in controversy, Lauzen said, "I think it's best that I don't make any editorial comments. I just appreciate the positive."
Sauceda brought an emphasis on bill collection and revenue enhancement while at animal control. The efforts put the agency in the black and on a path to paying back money it owed taxpayers for the construction of the animal control facility. But Sauceda's political connections to Lauzen fueled accusations about cronyism from several county board members for the duration of Sauceda's employment.
Lauzen attempted to hire Sauceda as animal control director shortly after taking office as chairman. But board members shot that down in a closed session meeting because Sauceda and Lauzen ran under the same "Reform Kane" political banner during the election. Lauzen then created a new billing manager position in animal control and handed Sauceda's resume over to public health Executive Director Barb Jeffers as the only candidate for the job.
When Sauceda grew the agency's revenues, Lauzen once again began pushing the board to hire Sauceda as animal control director. During the push, Lauzen emphasized Sauceda's "genuine affection for his fellow Animal Control employees."
"You can't teach somebody to care," Lauzen said at the time. "You either do or you don't, and he has that in his nature."
The board agreed to hire Sauceda an the interim director of the agency at the beginning of the current fiscal year.
"I'm confident that Rob is going to continue his great performance," Lauzen said in November. "Rob Sauceda is an excellent appointment."
Lauzen said Wednesday that Jeffers will oversee the day-to-day affairs of animal control in Sauceda's absence. It's unclear how long that arrangement will be in place now that Sauceda resigned. State statute does require a county board vote to hire an animal control director. The board will still meet next Tuesday and may still take action to address the situation in animal control, including weighing in on any possible severance agreements.
Sauceda could not be reached for comment Wednesday. He also serves as a village trustee in South Elgin.