Lake County Board approves pay freezes for some officials -- and one pay cut

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

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

 
 
Updated 5/12/2020 8:18 PM

After weeks of public discussion and some initial opposition from the affected public servants, the Lake County Board on Tuesday voted to freeze the salaries of three countywide elected officials because of the current economic crisis.

The annual pay of the coroner, recorder of deeds and circuit court clerk will remain $127,874 for the next four years.

 

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

The freezes mean the coroner, recorder and court clerk won't be paid the same as the county treasurer and county clerk starting Dec. 1. The annual pay for the treasurer and court clerk was set at $127,874 in 2018, and they'll receive raises in the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years.

Recorder Mary Ellen Vanderventer, Circuit Court Clerk Erin Cartwright Weinstein and Coroner Howard Cooper initially opposed the freeze.

At a committee meeting in April, they 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.

But with local economic disaster looming -- as well as potential layoffs, service cuts and program cuts -- their argument wasn't persuasive.

Before the vote, a comment from Jennifer Banek, the Green Oaks Democrat challenging the Republican Cooper for coroner's job this fall, was read into the record. Banek said it was "insensitive and irresponsible" to request pay raises during this crisis.

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Every board member except Fox River Grove Republican Michael Danforth backed the freeze. Danforth voted "present."

Also during Tuesday's meeting, which was held remotely due to the statewide stay-at-home order, the board froze the pay of the seven county board seats on November's ballot. Their pay will be $43,018 annually for the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years.

The measure passed unanimously.

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 already 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.

The board also voted to decrease the chair's pay to $104,408 for the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years. Hart had recommended eliminating a $3,000 annual stipend she receives for simultaneously being the county's liquor commissioner.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Every board member except Danforth voted to eliminate this stipend. He voted "present."

After the meeting, Danforth criticized that pay cut as "a purely political proposition from the chair of the county board."

As for the pay freezes for the three countywide officials, Danforth said he favors parity.

"To not allow for any type of pay increase for the next four years I believe is unfair and gives the perception that these elected officials are unequal in their capacities and abilities," he said.

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