Kane County Board discusses eliminating auditor, recorder posts

  • Penny Wegman

    Penny Wegman

  • Sandy Wegman

    Sandy Wegman

 
By Brenda Schory
Shaw Local News Network
Updated 4/10/2022 5:56 PM

In the wake of Kane County Auditor Penny Wegman's audit reports critical of some spending decisions, county board members have broached the idea of appointing or eliminating her position.

Board members also mentioned merging the county clerk's office with the county recorder's. Penny Wegman's mother, Sandy Wegman, is county recorder.

 

The discussion at Wednesday's executive committee meeting was an introduction to the idea, Board Chair Corinne Pierog said. Voters would have to approve those changes by referendum, officials said.

Board member Drew Frasz, a Republican from Elburn, said a move to eliminate the auditor and recorder positions might save enough money to hire a county administrator.

Both mother and daughter Wegman slammed the suggestion as politically motivated.

"This is an attempt by the county board to prevent the public from knowing how taxpayer money is used and misused," said Penny Wegman, who is in her first term as auditor. "Eliminating the independent elected auditor will eliminate the only independent office that has access to the finances of the county. ... This is not a cost-saving question, this is a question about transparency."

Audits from her office in the past year revealed that nearly $60,000 was spent on one employee's private school education at DeVry University; that the county was spending $4,000 a month for cellphones not being used; and more recently, that a county director recommended his wife be hired as a $5,000-a-month temporary employee without disclosing the family relationship, as required by the Kane County Ethics Ordinance.

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Frasz said he believes the county could use an administrator. He noted that Lake County does not have an elected auditor and the recorder's duties are part of the clerk's offices in Winnebago and McHenry counties.

"It just kind of occurs to me -- because it has been discussed a few times over the years -- that there may be an opportunity for restructuring that would allow us the funds to become more efficient in certain areas and fund a county administrator," Frasz said. "I just think that is something we can talk about."

Board Vice President Kenneth Shepro noted that the state constitution would require a countywide referendum to eliminate an elected office.

"That has been done in certain areas. Cook County did it, but it was done by referendum, not board action. The county treasurer cannot be eliminated or restructured," Shepro said. "The auditor's office can be made appointed or abolished. I think there's only less than 20 elected county auditors in the state, and that also could be done by referendum."

If a referendum passed that eliminated the auditor's and recorder's offices, it would not take effect until the 2024 election and it would not affect the terms of anyone currently serving, Shepro said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Sandy Wegman, whose office maintains county land records, has been recorder since 2000.

"Our office is entirely fee funded," Sandy Wegman said. "The moneys coming into the recorder's office -- we put that money into the general fund and only take back what we need to run the office. We give them several million dollars a year."

She also challenged whether it would save money to fold the recorder's duties into the clerk's office, because there would still be a need for a staff and a director.

"I think it's strictly political," she said. "It probably would not save money. There are no statistics from any counties where this has been done to indicate there has been a savings."

Penny Wegman said there may be a need for a county administrator -- but not at the expense of an independent office that saves taxpayers money.

"The already understaffed and overworked finance department is not in a position to absorb the responsibilities of my office without hiring more staff," she said. "Therefore, spending more money would not be saving any money by eliminating the auditor's office."

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