Opposition to Lake County pay-freeze plan disappears

  • From left, Lake County Circuit Court Clerk Erin Cartwright Weinstein, Coroner Howard Cooper and Recorder of Deeds Mary Ellen Vanderventer.

    From left, Lake County Circuit Court Clerk Erin Cartwright Weinstein, Coroner Howard Cooper and Recorder of Deeds Mary Ellen Vanderventer.

 
 
Updated 4/30/2020 8:51 PM

A Lake County Board committee on Thursday reaffirmed its recommendation to freeze the salaries of three countywide elected officials for four years because of the current economic crisis.

This time, none of the three politicians whose offices would be affected rose to oppose the plan. In fact, none attended the financial and administrative committee's meeting, which was held remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The committee wants to freeze the annual pay of the coroner, recorder of deeds and circuit court clerk at $127,874.

All three posts are up for election in November. By law, county officials' salaries are set six months before they take office.

Pay freezes would mean the coroner, recorder and court clerk no longer would be paid the same as the county treasurer and clerk. The salaries for the treasurer and court clerk were set in 2018, and they'll receive raises in the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years.

When the financial committee last met April 16, Recorder Mary Ellen Vanderventer, Circuit Court Clerk Erin Cartwright Weinstein and Coroner Howard Cooper unsuccessfully lobbied for two-year freezes and raises in the 2023 and 2024 fiscal years that would equalize their pay with the clerk's and treasurer's.

Vanderventer's stance on the matter has shifted since then. Freezing salaries "is absolutely the right thing to do," she said after Thursday's meeting.

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"We are in crisis mode, and we have far more important things to sort out," Vanderventer said. "At this point in time, I'm more worried about county layoffs and furlough days that are being discussed for our employees."

At the April 16 meeting, Cartwright Weinstein said the American economy has taken two years to recover from other crises, and she called a four-year freeze inappropriate. On Thursday, however, she deflected direct questions about the proposal and instead said the three officials are working to conserve resources and save money.

Cooper couldn't be reached.

The financial committee on Thursday also recommended freezing the pay of the seven county board seats on November's ballot at $43,018 annually.

The seven seats represent District 1 in the Antioch area, District 2 in the northern Waukegan area, District 4 in the Zion area, District 7 in the Gurnee area, District 12 in the Lake Forest area, District 13 in the Lake Bluff area and District 16 in the Round Lake Beach area.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

All the other board members except Chairwoman Sandy Hart are set to earn $43,018 annually through the 2022 fiscal year. Hart collects $107,408 in annual compensation because her post has extra responsibilities.

Committee member Jennifer Clark said freezing pay is prudent in this economic climate. Many Lake County residents are looking at pay decreases, furloughs and job loss, she said, and county staffers in every department are investigating ways to cut spending.

"It is not the time to be raising salaries," said Clark, a Libertyville Democrat.

In related action, the financial committee again supported decreasing the chair's pay to $104,408 for the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years. Hart recommended eliminating a $3,000 annual stipend she receives for simultaneously being the county's liquor commissioner.

The full board is expected to vote on the proposals May 12.

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