Kane state's attorney employee bonuses play role in unfulfilled budget promise

Updated 3/1/2017 6:11 PM

The Kane County state's attorney's office was a budgetary hero just one month ago as officials prepared to close the financial books on 2016. But new information labels controversial raises and bonuses as contributors to what may now be a broken fiscal promise.

State's Attorney Joe McMahon sparred with county officials over his use of unspent money for raises and "lump sum" payments at the end of the fiscal year. Some officials saw those payments as inappropriate "bonuses." McMahon fended off the criticism by pointing to $1.8 million his office returned to county coffers during his tenure.

As a show of good faith, McMahon teamed with other judiciary offices to pledge $234,000 in unspent 2016 budget funds their offices would contribute to the 2017 budget.

One month ago, projections indicated they would more than make good on that pledge by kicking in $759,000. On Wednesday, almost all of the money had vanished.

Joe Onzick, the county's chief financial officer, said accounting software errors and missed projections will result in McMahon and the other judicial and public safety leaders contributing just $109,266.

The biggest reason for the nearly $650,000 change is a $400,000 reimbursement of probation officer salaries that didn't come through from the state. Kane County had already reached its cap for such reimbursements, a fact Onzick did not know when he came up with the original $759,000 number for the judicial partners.

Another factor -- the only one entirely highlighted in bold, red letters on Wednesday's finance committee report -- is nearly $168,000 in lump sum (bonuses) and retroactive raises not accounted for in Onzick's projections because of an accounting software error.

In an interview, Onzick said the judicial partners would hit their promised contribution for 2017 if McMahon did not issue the raises and bonuses. However, he said there was no way McMahon could have known that at the time he issued the payments.

"If they knew, I'm sure they would have had a different decision," Onzick said.

McMahon was unavailable for comment Wednesday. However, the annual report he presented to the county board shows his office was 4 percent under budget to close 2016.

Onzick said that's a source of disagreement. McMahon's office spent less than budgeted, but revenue also was down.

"Even though you don't spend all of your budget, if you have less revenue, you still have less money to spend," Onzick said. "It's spending less money that you don't have to begin with."

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