Potential Kane Co. hire sparks calls of cronyism

Updated 1/30/2013 5:35 PM
  • Robert Sauceda

    Robert Sauceda

  • Chris Lauzen

    Chris Lauzen

The potential hiring of a running mate has Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen facing the same accusations of cronyism he campaigned against.

Lauzen acknowledged Wednesday the county's animal control department is in the final stages of creating a new billing manager position. He said Interim Health Department Director Barb Jeffers, whose department oversees animal control, is eyeing unsuccessful county board candidate Robert Sauceda for the job, a move Lauzen supports.

It may not be a move his fellow county board members support, though. Sauceda and Lauzen ran under the "Reform Party" banner in the 2012 elections. One of the planks of the group's platform was "draining the swamp of cronyism." Lauzen went on to victory, but Sauceda fell short in his primary race against incumbent Mike Kenyon.

A few weeks ago, Lauzen pushed Sauceda's name forward in a closed-door meeting to be the new administrator for the beleaguered animal control department. The department has suffered through a series of failed administrators and financial woes, including overdue payments on its building.

County board members blasted Lauzen in that meeting for trying to hire Sauceda because of their personal connection and Sauceda's lack of background with animals. That sentiment is now spilling over to his looming hire as a billing manager.

"He probably doesn't even own a dog," said Sauceda's old political foe, Kenyon. "If this hire isn't about cronyism, then what is it about?"

Lauzen said it's about the ticking clock on animal control's financial problems. He said the department is on pace to fall up to $500,000 short of its revenue projections for the year. That adds to the $186,000 in back mortgage payments animal control owes the county for money it borrowed to build the animal control facility.

Sauceda would be hired, perhaps temporarily, to be a debt collector and get the financial books in line for the department, Lauzen said. Just as important, he's ready and able to start that work right now, he added.

"Robert Sauceda is a very tremendous guy," Lauzen said. "And if he comes in and collects the money, then you're a hero. If not, then you get someone else. This is not any kind of political hiring. Let's take the veneer off. The people who are criticizing this already failed three times to get that department in order, and it's cost us.

"What I'm saying is while you guys are playing politics, we're going to start collecting money so that we can pay the mortgage."

Sauceda was not available for comment Wednesday.

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