Kane County Board committee votes to keep $240,000 taxpayer-funded perk

 
 

Part-time Kane County Board members will keep their taxpayer-funded insurance benefits, following a vote on Wednesday. The decision comes despite a colleague labeling the perk "corruption" and campaigning to end the practice.

The board's human services committee spent six months studying the legality and history of the health insurance board members receive. That comes on top of their $25,000 salary. Some of the longest-serving board members also receive a pension benefit. Elected board members are the only part-time employees in the county who receive such benefits. Board member Mo Iqbal pushed for the elimination of the perk after winning a seat on the board late last year.

At the time, Iqbal said his constituents considered the benefit "corruption." With 17 of the 24 board members opting into the health insurance plan in 2018, the total cost to taxpayers was about $240,000 for the year. Updated numbers that include the six new board members elected last November were not made available by county officials Wednesday.

The six-month search of historical records found specific board votes going back 20 years, as well as accompanying legal support, to justify the benefit. With that in hand, and Iqbal absent, the committee voted Wednesday to end discussion on the matter.

Board member Cliff Surges is chairman of the committee that reviewed the policy. He urged committee members to allow their colleagues to keep their health insurance.

"If you want quality individuals to serve on this body, then you need to have a reason for them to leave their jobs and come here and want to do this," Surges said. "Otherwise, you will have a bunch of retirees. I don't want this to be a lopsided board of self-employed individuals."

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Veteran board member John Hoscheit proposed the indefinite tabling of the resolution that would end the insurance benefit. He referred to a ruling by the state's attorney's office that said any decision to spike health insurance benefits for board members could not take effect until after the next election. Board members can't alter their own compensation in any way during their current term of office.

Half the county board (the 12 seats in even-numbered districts) will be on the ballot in 2020, including Hoscheit, who opted out of the insurance benefit.

"Although there is somewhat of a conflict of interest on us voting on this, we do have to vote for future boards," Hoscheit said. "There's been no change in the compensation of the board for years."

The committee unanimously voted to end the discussion. That decision blocks a discussion or vote by the full board.

In an interview, Iqbal said he was disappointed but not surprised by the decision.

"They acted in their self-interest," Iqbal said. "For an elected official, it is paramount to keep public interest above one's own. But that is rare these days."

Iqbal said he may try to make the issue a ballot question to get more input from the public.

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