Kane County fires another human resources director
Kane County's second consecutive executive director of human resources is leaving under a dark cloud and the possibility of a lawsuit.
County board members voted unanimously late Thursday to fire Sylvia Wetzel. The resolution approved by the board describes the termination as being "in the best interest of the county." The termination was effective immediately.
Wetzel's firing brings to a head an issue that began brewing shortly after former county board Chairman Chris Lauzen left office and was replaced by current Chair Corinne Pierog.
Wetzel was Lauzen's choice to take over the human resources department in 2017 following a clash between him and the prior executive director, Sheila McCraven. McCraven filed a federal complaint claiming Lauzen engaged in a pattern of "harassment, intimidation and demotion." That complaint went away after the county board agreed to a six-figure severance package for McCraven. Lauzen denied any wrongdoing.
There was no severance package for Wetzel involved with Thursday's termination. After McCraven's departure, Wetzel and Lauzen enacted several changes to the employee handbook. Among them was eliminating the grievance procedure for employees who believed they were unfairly disciplined or terminated -- a policy that would have come into play in Wetzel's current situation.
County officials did not want to publicly share details of the situation Thursday as they wait to see if Wetzel will file a lawsuit in response to her termination. Under the county's employment policy, they do not have to provide Wetzel with a specific reason to terminate her.
Reached after the decision, Wetzel said she's not surprised the county isn't giving her or the public a reason for firing her.
"There is no reason," she said. "Nothing is happening here other than they are fabricating what they need to reach an outcome they desire. A new administration came in, and they want to replace people they see as part of the old administration."
Wetzel said she feels "blindsided" by what she believes is a pure political firing. She pointed to four years of modernizing the policies and procedures of the human resources department and holding employees accountable for their work obligations, even during an unprecedented health pandemic, as part of a public record she's proud of.
"There's no tarnish on me," Wetzel said. "I hold people accountable. And I learned, in politics, people don't always like that. They do what they have to do to build their administration."
Wetzel said she has not ruled out a lawsuit.