Man booted from Kane County meeting after complaining taxpayers funded $58,211 in tuition
A Batavia resident who tried to go over his three-minute limit to address the Kane County Board Tuesday about nearly $60,000 in tuition paid for one employee's degree was shut down and escorted from the meeting by Sheriff Ron Hain and two deputies.
Bob McQuillan, known locally as an anti-tax advocate, asked to be allowed to go over his three-minute public comment limit.
But Board Chair Corinne Pierog denied his request and said he could come back to another meeting and continue.
McQuillan was speaking to the board about $58,211 in 17 payments to DeVry University made over three years for one employee.
"In what world does an employee go from making $21,840 per year to $64,000 in six years and have a four-year college degree paid for by their employer?" McQuillan asked.
"I can tell you in my 37-year career in the business world I never saw it happen," McQuillan said. "Oh right, government is not a business. Well Kane County has a CEO, a board, department heads, a human resource department, revenue from taxpayers and also expenses."
The only people who think government is not a business are government workers, he said.
"This unnamed employee, in addition to a free college degree, received a 293% salary increase in six years," McQuillan said. "That is more than $7,000 per year. Even better, or worse, she received a salary increase of $34,880 in only three years. That is a whopping average of $11,626 per year."
Pierog told McQuillan his three minutes were up.
McQuillan could have gotten a time extension to continue speaking if he were speaking to an agenda item -- but he wasn't.
"If you take a look around you, you have many people standing and waiting, so we welcome you to come back and continue the conversation," Pierog said.
"I'm not going to come back, Madam Chair," McQuillan said. "I think this is a serious matter and I think you can take another two or three minutes to listen to me. Because I think everybody in the audience would be interested in this. And you are a public body and you're supposed to be transparent."
"We appreciate your words. You don't have to chastise us," Pierog said.
"I'm not chastising. I'm trying to be kind because you are refusing to allow me ..." McQuillan responded, but Pierog cut him off, thanked him for his comments and invited him to come back.
"Thank you, sir, very much. We appreciate your words and your comments and you are welcome to come back. Thank you," Pierog said.
"Any county board member want me to speak?" he asked, but no one from the board answered.
Public records released through Freedom of Information Act requests show that Kane County Information Technology Executive Director Roger Fahnestock steered $58,211 in 17 payments for tuition to DeVry University over three years so an employee in his department could earn a degree, according to county records.
Kane County Auditor Penny Wegman first revealed the payments to DeVry in August after an audit of procurement card spending -- known as p-cards -- in which 15 of the DeVry payments were transacted. The audit found that two payments were made by the county cutting checks directly to DeVry.
In a joint statement at the time, Kane County Board Chair Corinne Pierog and State's Attorney Jamie Mosser said that "we have determined there has been no violation of county policy or criminal law."
Fahnestock has not responded to a voicemail, email or text message seeking an explanation.
The Kane County Chronicle is pursuing a review from the attorney general public access counselor challenging the county's denials of two open records requests in regard to the DeVry payments.
While the Human Resources Committee is working on revising its tuition reimbursement policy, the payments to DeVry were tuition payments, not reimbursement.
Since the audit, the county revised its W-2 forms and the employee has to pay income tax on nearly $41,000 of the tuition payments.