Formal GOP opposition to $2M Kane County grant arises

Local Republicans doubled down on their opposition to a $2 million grant for the Kane County Clerk's office Thursday, saying they won't accept what they see as county board members trying to wash their hands of any involvement in the pending deal.

The opposition to the grant stems from the belief by some local Republicans that the grant money is an attempt to inject liberal influences into local elections. The funding comes from what the clerk's office described as "Silicon Valley Billionaires" and is being passed through to the county by a Chicago-based nonprofit with Democratic ties.

That fueled a packed room of local Republicans opposing the grant at the full Kane County Board meeting last week.

On Thursday, the opposition gained more of an official party standing as Susan Hathaway-Altman presented a resolution she said was unanimously approved by the Kane County Western Township Republicans. Hathaway-Altman is a GOP precinct committee person from Blackberry Township.

The resolution said the local Republican organization stands in opposition to the Kane County Clerk's acceptance of the grant.

"This grant does not apply transparency to those accepting this award," Hathaway-Altman said in reading the resolution. "The independence of the Kane County Clerk's office is essential."

Speaking for herself, Hathaway-Altman said the acceptance of the grant stems from wasteful spending.

"You would not need any outside group's $2 million if you would treat our money like it was your own," she said. "Perception is reality. You have a perception problem right now. Make it right."

The ability of the county board to make it right, in terms of what the opponents of the grant want to see, hinges now on discussions between the Kane County State's Attorney's office and the Center for Technology and Civic Life, which is where the grant comes from.

The state's attorney's office is seeing if the center will revise the language of the grant agreement to clarify if the clerk's office or the county is the recipient of the $2 million and some conflicts in the agreement regarding what the clerk controls versus what the county board controls.

For instance, there is a part of the agreement that says receiving the $2 million is contingent on there not being an accompanying reduction in the clerk's budget as a result of the grant money coming. But the clerk, despite being an independently elected official, doesn't control the budget for the clerk's office. The county board controls that budget.

Similarly, if the clerk is the recipient of the $2 million, the county board has no say over whether or not the clerk can keep the money or how it is spent. The check, as it was received, is made out to the clerk's office. But a preliminary opinion by the state's attorney's office is that the wording of the grant names Kane County as the recipient of the money.

That discrepancy will be resolved by April 20, when the county board committee that the clerk's office reports to meets again.

In the meantime, the Republicans opposing the grant called for clarity on what the county board members think should happen with the grant.

"Take control of the situation," Ken Zitko said. "Rescind our partnership with the alliance and keep them out of our elections."

With that in mind, county board member David Young, who is also a member of the Western Townships GOP, called for the drafting of a county board resolution opposing the grant. Because that wasn't on the official agenda, the committee could not vote on such a resolution. But a vote could occur if Young gets the resolution placed on the agenda for the April 20 meeting.

A representative of the clerk's office who attended the meeting would not comment in response to questions from the committee about what the office intends to do with the grant now that the public opposition has come forward. The office is overseen by Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham, who is a Republican.

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