Kane County Board may undo political firing
Kane County officials are poised to reverse what some board members view as a politically motivated firing by former Chairman Chris Lauzen.
A majority of county board members, sitting as an executive committee Wednesday, unanimously approved the creation of the county's first public information officer position. The move comes as an enhancement of the position dedicated to authoring the Kane County Connects newsletter. The board spiked that position, served by Rick Nagel, at the behest of Lauzen, in setting up the 2021 budget.
But a vote by the full board next Tuesday could undo that termination. The new public information officer would receive a base salary of $82,500 plus nearly $30,000 in health, dental and pension benefits. That's in line with what Nagel received before his relationship with Lauzen soured.
Nagel lost his job after insisting that including COVID-19 death numbers from the coroner's office in Kane County Connects represented proper transparency. But Lauzen believed the coroner's numbers added to public confusion and mistrust about COVID-19 data because a difference in timing made the coroner's numbers more up to date, but higher, than the county health department's figures.
The county's new budget year began Dec. 1. Since then, Nagel has worked for the county as a contract employee paid by the hour. It's not guaranteed Nagel will be hired as the county's public information officer, but board members have indicated Nagel's experience likely makes him the most qualified.
If he gets the job, his duties will expand to include creating the county's communications strategy, promoting the county and working with the media.
The move comes while the county expects to see a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall. County financial staff scraped together money to fund the position for 2021 through 15 accounts and contributions from several other departments' budgets.