Why consultant hiring may result in unpaid Kane County coroner bills

  • The recent hiring of a consultant by the Kane County coroner pushed county board members Wednesday to vow not to pay for any over budget expenses in the office.

    The recent hiring of a consultant by the Kane County coroner pushed county board members Wednesday to vow not to pay for any over budget expenses in the office. James Fuller | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/24/2015 5:42 PM

Kane County Coroner Rob Russell will receive the legal equivalent of a no-soup-for-you as early as next week. County board members are set to approve a resolution that will refuse payment for all non-mandated expenses in his office.

The resolution follows news that Russell wants to hire Jennifer Baustian as a consultant to update his website, craft news releases and monitor compliance standards. Baustian is a former director of the county's 911 communications and a former Republican staffer at the statehouse when Karen McConnaughay transitioned from county board chairman to state senator.

 

Russell recently laid off two employees. Rather than hire replacements, and pay them benefits, Russell said in an interview earlier this month Baustian would be a more cost-effective solution. At the time, Russell said she would be paid $125 per hour. On Wednesday, attorney Ken Shepro, who has occasionally assisted Russell in crafting his office's budget, said Baustian would be paid between $70 and $90 per hour depending on what tasks she performed. Shepro estimated her contract, which has not been finalized, would be capped at no more than $4,000 for the remainder of the year.

All that was news to Cristina Castro, chairman of the committee to which Russell reports. Russell had a death in the family and was absent from a meeting Wednesday where it was expected he would discuss the Baustian contract.

Castro said a smaller dollar figure for Baustian is a nice start for an office that has been "continuously over budget."

"We can't tell him not to hire her, but why her?" Castro said in an interview Wednesday. "Why didn't you bid it out? Why not use a temp agency? Why not hire an intern? I'm going to wait to see his explanation. But this is to put him on notice. We will not pay nonstatutory expenses."

The wording of the pending resolution will be presented at the county board's executive committee meeting next week. Russell is expected to return and state his case at that time.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Shepro said the idea of the county refusing to pay the coroner's bills even at just the hint of the office running over budget is "sort of a bombshell."

"I think they're taking it a bit far," Shepro said. "It's certainly news to us."

As of May 31, Russell had expended 52.6 percent of his budget. Most other county departments are at 50 percent for the year.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.