Wife of Barrington Township trustee no longer wants assessor's post
Following claims of nepotism at Tuesday's Barrington Township meeting, the wife of township Trustee Dan Fitzgerald announced Wednesday she is no longer pursuing the newly vacated assessor position.
Karen Fitzgerald had begun taking classes to become certified for the job, in preparation for the possibility that Amy Nykaza, the assessor for the past 10 years, could be appointed township supervisor.
That appointment -- to replace the recently retired Gene Dawson -- was made Tuesday night despite opposition from senior Trustee Ron Szymanski.
Szymanski said he did not doubt Nykaza's ability to serve as supervisor, but disapproved of an informal succession plan that would lead to Karen Fitzgerald becoming assessor. That would be unseemly nepotism, he argued, even though the township's attorney said would not be illegal and Dan Fitzgerald said he would recuse himself from voting on his wife's appointment.
"I'm totally surprised, but in a positive sense," Szymanski said Wednesday of Karen Fitzgerald's decision. "I think the decision finally was correct. I'm pleased with it. The nepotism issue is now dead and that's good."
Szymanski still takes issue with the way the succession plan reached his ears apparently fully formed in March, but said he otherwise would have voted for Nykaza's appointment as supervisor Tuesday night.
Nykaza, for her part, said she deeply regretted that Szymanski's comments led Karen Fitzgerald to withdraw her interest in the assessor's post. She described Karen Fitzgerald as a nonpolitical person who would have been perfect for the position.
"This is an absolute shame that a candidate who is a CPA, has a master's (degree) with a concentration in human resources and over 20 years experience in the private sector and was highly qualified for the position has declined to pursue it," Nykaza said. "The taxpayers of Barrington Township are the ones that lose here."
Nykaza criticized Szymanski for focusing only on Karen Fitzgerald's marriage to a trustee. She reminded him that she'd been appointed assessor exactly the same way 10 years ago, when she was still married to Trustee Robert Nykaza. Szymanski had voted in favor of her appointment then.
Szymanski said he regrets not raising the same concerns about nepotism in 2006. He said he intends not to run for re-election in 2017 and wants his final year in office to be free from any impropriety or even the appearance of it.
In the meantime, the search for a new assessor goes on. Nykaza said a newcomer with no prior experience would be hard-pressed to complete the required classes for certification before filing for candidacy at the end of the year for the April 2017 election.
Deputy Assessor Sue Johnston is qualified to do the day-to-day work but cannot be either appointed or elected to the position of assessor because she doesn't live in the township, Nykaza said.
Szymanski said he thinks the township can make it through the year with hired help and find a new permanent assessor by the next election.