Kane County officials at odds over hiring of IT director's wife
Whether the head of Kane County's information technology department properly disclosed that he was recommending his wife for a temporary county job in 2021 has become a source of contention among elected officials.
On one side, Auditor Penny Wegman stands behind her office's report earlier this year finding that IT Executive Director Roger Fahnestock did not properly disclose the relationship.
On the other, County Board Chair Corinne Pierog and State's Attorney Jamie Mosser say there was nothing to disclose because everyone involved in the hiring of Suzanne Fahnestock knew of her marriage to Roger Fahnestock.
"This matter has been reviewed by the State's Attorney's Office," a recent statement from Pierog and Mosser asserted. "No violation of county policy or Ethics Code provision occurred in connection with the hiring or employment of this temporary worker."
Pierog approved hiring Suzanne Fahnestock, also now village president of Maple Park, as a temporary worker in February 2021 to help open a COVID-19 mass vaccination site in Batavia. According to the audit, Suzanne Fahnestock was paid $15,901 for 311.15 hours, $50.40 per hour, as well as $75.60 per hour for 8.5 hours of overtime.
Contrary to Wegman's audit, Roger Fahnestock did not need to disclose the relationship to the county's human resources department because he told those involved in the hiring, Pierog and Mosser said in an April 29 statement.
"The family relationship between the temporary worker (Suzanne Fahnestock) and the Kane County employee (Roger Fahnestock) was well known and fully disclosed to the Chairman and the Building Management Department Executive Director (Christopher Allen) before the person was interviewed and ultimately hired through the Salem Group Employment Agency," according to the statement.
Wegman's audit cites the county's ethics ordinance, which states that, "No officer may approve, recommend or otherwise take action with regard to the appointment, reappointment, hiring, promotion salary or supervision of a family member."
"While the relationship may have been known to some, in discussions with Human Resources, they were not aware and also unaware of when departments hire temporary workers," Wegman said in an email.
Wegman added that her audit "includes factual information only."
"I cannot speak on behalf of the State's Attorney or the County Board Chair," Wegman said in a telephone interview. "I can only speak about the information I found and provide it to the residents of Kane County. My report is accurate. I stand behind it."
Wegman's audit states that Allen had no direct supervision of Suzanne Fahnestock, was not aware of any work she performed, and that Roger Fahnestock directed him to approve and sign off on 11 invoices to pay her a total of $15,901.
But Pierog and Mosser dispute the audit, stating that the temporary worker "was assigned to the Building Management Department, where she worked collaboratively with the Executive Director (Allen) to open, promote and maintain Kane County's vaccination sites."
Their statement also contradicts Pierog's explanation last month that Suzanne Fahnestock worked in her office to set up the mass vaccination centers and issue news releases about them.
"Roger hired his wife through Chris," Pierog had said. "I was witness to that, without question."
Pierog's and Mosser's statement also does not address their inability to find a job description for Suzanne Fahnestock. Wegman says the county needs to create a policy for temporary workers.
"While we have identified a need for the county to create a temporary worker policy, it needs to be clear that departments be held accountable to the new policy as to not allow these 'loopholes' to take place any longer," Wegman said in an email. "We will continue to advocate for transparency on behalf of the taxpayers of Kane County and provide them with as much information as possible."