A study intended as the cornerstone for staving off Kane County tax increases drew heavy criticism Thursday as early copies spread among department heads and elected officials.
County board members budgeted up to $150,000 for a report aimed at finding expenses they could target for cuts. The primary focus of the report, to be unveiled Nov. 28, is to identify services the law says the county must provide and which services are voluntary. But four of the county's 13 department heads raised concern about the report's data or questioned the integrity of the findings.
Lisa Aust, who runs the court services department, said the report fails to account for about $2.7 million in revenue her office brings in. It also mislabels the county's special veterans court as optional when state law mandates the program as of this January.
Kelli Childress, the county's public defender, pointed to inconsistencies with comparisons to other counties. DeKalb, DuPage and McHenry counties are used as comparisons for the Kane County state's attorney's office. But Childress' office is compared to DuPage, Lake and McHenry counties. Childress said the report contains "misinformation," and she said the data are "totally inaccurate." The employee count contains incorrect information for DuPage County. And the number of cases Childress' office handles is off by more than 1,000.
"It's wrong. It's just wrong," she said. "I would like to know who the sources are for this information."
Coroner Rob Russell said the study overstated qualifications of a consultant the board used to review the growing number of autopsies.
He also voiced a concern expressed in interviews with other department heads about the integrity of the draft delivered to the county in late October. That draft was placed under review, but department heads were never told who performed it. Finance director Joe Onzick distributed the draft to department heads Nov. 9.
"It would have been nice to have gotten a preliminary copy that was marked draft," Russell said. "I got this study from Joe Onzick. That means Joe Onzick got it before me. That's a problem."
Most department heads have not had a chance to publicly comment on the draft report. But county board member Phil Lewis said he'd seen and heard enough to question the quality of the study.
"When a consultant presents information that has significant inaccuracies, that brings into question the entire consultant process," he said.
County board Chairman Chris Lauzen defended the process. He said department heads received, "as a courtesy," preliminary drafts of the report. Several department heads in the room, including Sheriff Don Kramer, simultaneously shouted that wasn't true. Lauzen responded by telling them not to interrupt him. He also said Lewis' comments are not surprising because Lewis questioned the need for the study before it moved forward. Lauzen urged others with complaints to save them for the public presentation this month.
"You don't prejudge a case before it's presented," Lauzen said. "If someone is being accused of inaccuracies, we ought to have that person present."