Kane County's merit commission turned political Thursday as Sheriff Don Kramer's attempted appointment of longtime friend Todd Zies required a closed-door vetting to iron out objections.
Merit commission appointments don't often result in much -- or any -- debate. The commission's job is to screen applicants seeking employment in the sheriff's office, test current personnel for promotions and conduct hearings whenever someone files a complaint about a sheriff's employee.
Committee Chairman Stephen Wennmacher died three months ago. That left an opening on the three-member commission for Kramer to fill.
Kramer's presentation of Zies as the nominee to fill the position triggered an hourlong discussion after at least one county board member filed an objection. A vote on his appointment was then tabled.
Zies works for the North Aurora Fire Protection District. Besides Kramer, the county official who has had the most dealings with Zies is county board member Susan Starrett. Zies ran as a Democrat to unseat Starrett in November. Revelations about improper use of a fire department email account for campaign activity helped derail Zies' campaign.
If nominated, Zies and Starrett could possibly find themselves at odds again. Starrett serves on the county board's judicial and public safety committee, which oversees the merit commission and its appointees.
The merit commission operates on a budget of about $100,000. The bulk of that cost relates to salaries and the $85 per diem commission members receive for their service.
After the closed-door meeting, Starrett said she has not decided if Zies is the right for the job. Her only vote, at this point, is to table the appointment to allow for consideration of other candidates, she said.
"I don't have any problems with Todd Zies," Starrett said. "We have made decisions in the past, and quickly, because we were told we needed to make them quickly, and that's backfired on us. This is an important position and an important process. This may be the right person, and that would be great."
Starrett said she and other county board members, whom she didn't name, have received multiple calls from constituents asking questions about Zies' pending appointment. In light of that, she said the committee agreed to table the vote.
Not all members of the committee felt that way. Committee Chairman John Martin declined to express an opinion on the appointment other than to say it should have received a straight up or down vote Thursday. As it stands, the appointment will come before the same committee next month for further review.