New Kane County board member wants to end colleagues' insurance benefits
Health and dental benefits for county board members cost Kane County taxpayers nearly $240,000 in 2018.
That's an expense new county board member Mo Iqbal labeled "corruption" and a "conflict of interest" in proposing to eliminate such benefits for what he considers part-time work.
Iqbal sent a letter to his fellow board members about eliminating the insurance benefits just 10 days after taking the oath of office. The letter points out how county board members are elected officials and considered part-time employees, under state law, for the purposes of accessing county-subsidized health insurance benefits.
The county will contribute as much as $25,422 in health insurance benefits for each full-time, nonunion employee in 2019. Board members can access that full range of benefits under the county's current policies. No other part-time employee in the county receives such benefits. The benefits come on top of the $25,000 annual salary for board members.
"This is an outrageous amount of compensation for a part-time elected position in our county where per capita income is $30,000 and median household income is a mere $70,000," Iqbal wrote. "The taxpayers in my district are concerned about this practice, and they call it corruption."
Iqbal went on to say it's a conflict of interest for board members to vote to give themselves such benefits. He's seeking an opinion from the Kane County state's attorney's office on the legality of the benefits.
Iqbal did not include the remarks in his official proposal to eliminate the insurance benefits, which he wanted to come to a final vote as soon as next Tuesday. But the county board's executive committee persuaded him to agree to a delay and send the proposal to a lower committee for a full debate.
The fate of the proposal would appear to be murky, at best, given the recent history of the board.
Eighteen of the 24 county board members received some level of health insurance and/or dental benefits in 2018. Fourteen of that total still serve on the new county board. Information about what benefits, if any, the seven new board members signed up for has not been posted yet.
The topic of eliminating insurance benefits for board members last arose in August 2016. County board Chairman Chris Lauzen brought up the issue as the board faced a budget deficit.
When he called for a show of hands by board members to see who would drop their benefits, no hands were raised.
The discussion arose at the same time board members shot down plans to give certain elected officials raises, including Lauzen. Shortly after, Lauzen signed up to receive pension benefits for his chairman position.
That marked a reversal of a 2012 campaign pledge not to accept either pension benefits or health insurance for the chairman role. Lauzen already has a $74,777 annual pension from his time serving in the Illinois Senate.
A state law change ended pension benefits for new board members a couple of years ago. But veteran county board members still receive them if they log at least 600 hours of board service a year, a policy the board will vote on renewing Tuesday.
What board members' insurance cost taxpayers in 2018The value of current board members' 2018 benefits:Jarett Sanchez: $18,868
Doug Scheflow: $18,868
Mark Davoust: $15,606
Drew Frasz: $15,606
Mike Kenyon: $15,606
Bill Lenert: $15,606
Myrna Molina: $15,606
Susan Starrett: $15.606
Deb Allan: $13,196
Angie Thomas: $13,196
Monica Silva: $8,143
Penny Wegman: $7,751
Barbara Wojnicki: $7,751
Barbara Hernandez: $6,744
Non-returning board members' 2018 benefits value:Kurt Kojzarek: $18,420
Phil Lewis: $15,606
Maggie Auger: $7,751
T.R. Smith: $7,751
Combined total: $237,681
Source: Kane County Finance Department
Note: Six additional board members declined all health and dental benefits in 2018