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posted: 9/7/2017 5:20 PM

Editorial: Time for township board to manage its discord

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  • Taxpayers had to pay the costs of an extra meeting after tempers flared at a regular Elk Grove Township board session and trustees adjourned before paying bills.

    Taxpayers had to pay the costs of an extra meeting after tempers flared at a regular Elk Grove Township board session and trustees adjourned before paying bills.
    Courtesy Elk Grove Township

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Political skirmishes are nothing new to the suburbs. They flare up from time to time as elected officials clash over issues, shifting power bases and personalities.

Sometimes the tension bubbles below the surface and shows up in split votes and snide remarks. At other times, disagreements become loud and angry.

Such confrontations aren't always bad -- they tend to reduce rubber stamping and allow for a full debate of important issues before a final decision. Such democracy in action, when done in taxpayers' best interests, is good for local government.

The real trouble develops when responsibly conducting the people's business gets lost in a tit-for-tat test of political wills and ends up wasting taxpayers' time and money.

That's what happened in Elk Grove Township, where a monthslong spat between township officials cost taxpayers nearly $2,000 and wasted workforce hours when board members prematurely ended a meeting before paying bills, and another meeting was needed to finish the job.

That alone must be reason enough for the warring sides to quickly figure out a more effective and productive way to settle their disagreements and get on with the serious business of running the township.

The root of the disagreement goes back two years and involves money spent on a water pump. It has sparked an ongoing argument between township Supervisor Mike Sweeney and Trustee Andrea Koshaba over the amount of money the supervisor can spend without board approval.

In June, while Sweeney was on vacation, trustees approved Koshaba's proposal for a $500 limit. In July, Sweeney asked the board to reconsider. The debate spilled over to a meeting last week and heated up before Koshaba moved to adjourn halfway through the session.

Township board members angrily agreed, but did so without voting to approve bills to pay employees, assist the needy and repair roads. This week's do-over meeting cost taxpayers $1,750 to video record the session. It could have been more, but board members agreed to forego the $500 they'd be paid collectively to attend the meeting.

"It's a complete waste of taxpayer resources," said Sweeney, one of four board members who voted in favor of adjournment, a move he later said he regretted.

Frankly, it's a display the entire board should regret. There's no shortage of important issues to be decided at any meeting, and the township -- or any government board -- can't afford to allow decision-making to grind to a halt amid gamesmanship.

Taxpayers and voters should watch carefully for a change of attitude on this board. If that doesn't happen soon, then the next change should be who serves on the board.

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