Editorial: Creating job and hiring ally fuels skepticism about township government

 
Posted8/31/2017 6:50 PM
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  • The Maine Township supervisor created a new position to help boost fundraising for the food pantry and, without posting the job or looking at other candidates, hired a political ally to fill it.

      The Maine Township supervisor created a new position to help boost fundraising for the food pantry and, without posting the job or looking at other candidates, hired a political ally to fill it. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Early in August, Maine Township Supervisor Laura Morask created a $30,000 job out of her General Assistance budget -- a part-time director of fundraising for the township food pantry, which was about to expand operations from two days a week to five.

To fill the job, she hired a political ally -- Kelly Schaefer, a former township trustee who ran for election on Morask's slate last April and lost. When criticized for bringing on a crony, Morask pointed out she didn't have to post the job to the general public, and added that Schaefer is well qualified.

We won't argue with Schaefer's credentials. Morask says Schaefer has done fundraising at Maine South High School and with the Lincoln Middle School PTO and is "well known for her work in the food pantry and with seniors." That she's done fundraising is a good sign, as it's not necessarily easy.

The problem is the optics, and they are not insignificant. Schaefer indeed may be well-qualified, but is she the best qualified? We don't know, and neither does Morask, because apparently she didn't look at anybody else. This kind of action -- filling a small, under-the-radar part-time government job with a political ally -- gets directly to the heart of why many people disparage township government, fearing it to be dominated by hyper-political cliques jostling for position, favors and taxpayer money. Case in point: In 2013, then-Palatine Township Republican Chairman Aaron Del Mar slated Sharon Langlotz-Johnson to run for Palatine Township supervisor over two-term incumbent Linda Fleming, saying he was troubled that Fleming was getting both a supervisor's salary and a pension from Palatine Township Elementary District 15.

Langlotz-Johnson won the election. Two and a half years later, when a township fire trustee died, Langlotz-Johnson appointed Del Mar. A few months later, the highway commissioner resigned and Langlotz-Johnson appointed Del Mar to that, as well. Together the jobs added up to about $23,000 -- no fortune, certainly. But, again, bad optics.

Morask may not be able to take back what she's already done, but at least she should make public the expectations for the food pantry fundraising job. How much money needs to be fundraised in order to make the food pantry operational five days a week, when combined with other sources of revenue? Is Schaefer expected to at least make back the cost of her job, plus more for the pantry? What happens if those goals are consistently not met?

For all her good intentions toward Schaefer, Morask has lumbered her with the appearance of being a patronage hire. We hope Schaefer can overcome an inauspicious beginning and raise money for the food pantry, a good cause if there ever was one. Making the details of her job expectations public will go a long way toward letting her -- and everybody else -- focus on the task at hand. And help clear up those pesky optics.

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