McHenry County Board members refuse vote on salary reduction, timesheet requirement

 
 
Updated 5/20/2020 10:13 AM

McHenry County Board members refused to vote Tuesday on resolutions calling for a salary reduction for some county elected officials and a requirement that county board members to use timesheets.

District 3 county board member Joseph Gottemoller started the meeting by filing a motion to remove the measures from the agenda.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

One was a proposal for a 10% salary reduction for some McHenry County elected officials and the second suggested requiring the use of timesheets by county board members in order to prove they work the 20 hours necessary to receive county health and dental insurance benefits. A vote was to be taken on both proposals during the meeting.

"Our taxpayers are hurting and many of our businesses are closed and many of our constituents are unemployed and many that still have jobs have had their pay cut," Board Chairman Jack Franks said in response to questions about the proposals last week. "And if our constituents have less then government must have less."

Gottemoller's motion to refuse the vote was seconded by District 3 board member Lori Parrish.

In a roll-call vote, 18 board members voted to remove the resolutions, four members voted against and two members did not vote.

The board members who voted against the motion to remove the resolutions were Carlos Acosta of District 5, Kay Bates of District 4, Michael Vijuk of District 1 and Paula Yensen of District 5.

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Multiple board members said they were not given enough time to discuss the resolutions fully in committee meetings as Franks announced the proposals just more than a week before the board meeting.

The proposals were discussed in the board's committee of the whole meeting May 14, which was attended by 23 board members.

Parrish read from a letter she wrote along with board members Suzanne Ness, Kelli Wegener, Pamela Althoff and Carolyn Schofield. The letter was published as a column in the Northwest Herald.

"The McHenry County Board understands the devastation that many in our community are facing," Parrish read. "During this time of anxiety and uncertainty, many of us on the board have been working behind the scenes in various capacities to help those who are affected, either directly or indirectly, by the COVID-19 pandemic."

Parrish went on to say the board has volunteered a total of 300 hours serving the McHenry County community and many members have chosen to donate more than 10% of their salaries for the year as an alternative to the proposed salary reduction.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

According to the letter, the salary reduction would only have saved the county $36,650 annually beginning Dec. 1 of this year and $87,230 annually beginning Dec. 1, 2022.

This is because a state statute mandates the salaries of elected officials cannot be changed while they are in office, Franks said.

Discussion of the two resolutions was not properly conducted within the county's committee process, according to the letter.

"These issues, like all others, must allow for public scrutiny and input, as well as full research and presentation of relevant information," according to the letter.

Instead of voting on the resolutions, board members who previously requested mileage reimbursement will not do so once the board begins meeting in person again, Ness said.

Members will continue to donate money back to the community and will look for other ways to reduce the county's budget, she said.

"I'm asking the chair to let us do our jobs and honor the process of rules that govern how we do our job, knowing that we are capable of making good decisions even when we don't agree," Ness said.

Yensen and Vijuk wrote a letter of support for the two proposals, which also was published recently by the Northwest Herald.

"A small pay cut for elected officials is not too much to bear," according to their letter. "Each and every effort large or small that we all do can help to preserve people's jobs."

A total of seven members of the public wrote in to the county board to express their support for the two proposed resolutions, one of them even going so far as to say that they would not vote to reelect any board member that was not willing to take a pay cut.

One of the public commentators, Larry Spaeth, currently is running for the McHenry County Board to serve District 6.

Spaeth wrote the proposed salary reduction "would be an important statement about the board's support with their constituents."

"It is one I would gladly make as a member of the McHenry County Board if elected," he said.

The only remaining item of new business on the meeting's agenda was a resolution to extend McHenry County's declaration of emergency because of COVID-19.

Franks described the resolution as a "legal requirement to allow our health department and our emergency management agency to continue operating under their emergency operation plans."

"Importantly, it allows us to pursue emergency funding and reimbursement from FEMA and other federal and state agencies," Franks said.

The resolution passed unanimously in a roll-call vote.

The next McHenry County Board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 16.

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