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County Board Appointment Plan Raises Eyebrows

Some say plans to reappoint member who lost seat over residency is fair to voters, others disagree.

Kendall County Board member Suzanne Petrella’s seat , but she continues to earn the paycheck and health benefits associated with it, run committee meetings and cast votes.

And County Board Chairman John Purcell plans to reappoint her to the position next month, despite others——expressing an interest in the seat. The county board must affirm that appointment.

Some non-incumbent county board candidates have marked the situation as an example of political insiders protecting their own. But Purcell said he is honoring the voters who placed Petrella in the District 1 seat, while state statute mandated that she retain the powers and privileges of her seat until a replacement was appointed.

“As I went through it, she was the one who made the most sense,” Purcell said, adding he casually discussed the situation with multiple people.

"An honest mistake"

Petrella’s seat was declared vacant Dec. 20 after county leaders learned she listed an address outside District 1 on her nominating petitions seeking re-election as a Republican. Petrella said she stayed at the address temporarily before moving to a home in District 1.

All ten of the county board seats are up for election in November: five in District 1 and five in District 2. Eight Republicans are seeking their party's nomination in each district in the March primary.

The address listed on Petrella's candidate petition presently is in District 2, but will be in District 1 when the next board term begins. Petrella sat on the committee that oversaw the redistricting process and voted for the change in district boundaries that affected her temporary address.

Amy Cesich, a Democrat running for a District 1 County Board seat, said she was concerned about the “lack of transparency and communication.”

“Questions have been raised as to the legitimacy of Petrella’s vote in the redistricting decision with this residency question, and this issue may not simply be about her ‘location,’” Cesich said. “The County Board, and its leadership, need to present the facts to the public, go through a decision-making process that considers those facts and take the appropriate action. I believe it should be the role of the board to gather the information, get clear legal advice and proceed in the best interests of the residents of Kendall County.”

Purcell, a Republican seeking re-election in District 1, described the address discrepancy as “an honest mistake,” and said he asked State’s Attorney Eric Weis to forward him the state statute detailing that Petrella would retain the duties until an appointment was made.

“That’s the way the statute is written,” Purcell said. “Until a replacement is appointed, whether they moved across the street or to Europe, they can still vote.”

According to Weis, the state statute that applies to this situation can be found in 10 ILCS 5/25-2. Specifically: "No elective office, except as herein otherwise provided, shall become vacant until the successor of the incumbent of such office has been appointed or elected, as the case may be, and qualified."

"An unfair advantage"

But Todd Milliron, a Republican seeking a District 1 seat, said Petrella should be considered a regular citizen if her position is “vacant,” not collecting county health insurance benefits, meeting pay and mileage reimbursements.

“Why are the Kendall County taxpayers still paying Ms. Petrella these scarce funds when she no longer holds the elected position?” Milliron said. “It’s like we citizens are still required to pay the landlord, long after their uninhabitable building had to be forcibly evacuated for a major building code violation.”

Another Republican seeking a District 1 seat, Jeff Spang, said re-appointing Petrella gave her an unfair advantage in the upcoming primary election.

“An incumbent loses their position through a vacation, and they are now a candidate,” Spang said. “And you reappoint them, and that’s an unfair advantage. But that’s the way it is in Kendall County.”

Gilmour, a Republican, said Purcell should consider other people for the appointment out of fairness. She asked him to appoint her to Petrella’s seat the day after the county board voted to declare it vacant.

“I am a qualified candidate, and am well-prepared to step into this position,” Gilmour said. “For the past several years, I have regularly attended county meetings and am up to speed with county issues. As a life-long Kendall County resident, I know the county well and have devoted my entire adult life to public service.”

For his part, District 2 County Board member Jeff Wehrli, who is seeking re-election, said he thought Petrella deserved the opportunity to finish her term.

“Right nor wrong, good or bad, she was elected by the voters of Kendall County in District 1, and I don't feel I have the right to change that,” Wehrli said.

"Just another game"

Meanwhile, Michael Becker, who is seeking a Republican nomination in District 2, encouraged Purcell to consider appointing someone else. He also pointed to a similar situation that did not require County Board intervention.

“In 1974, another board member, James C. Mann, moved from District 2 to District 1,” Becker said. “Upon doing so, he announced that he had moved and promptly resigned without forcing the board to declare his seat vacant.  Two years later he ran in District 1 and was elected.”

But for Evelyn Maxine Givens, a Democrat running in District 2, the situation reflects on the entire board.

“In my honest opinion, this is just another game of the ‘good old boys and girls club,’ and many residents are tired of it,” Givens said. “The vote to declare Petrella's seat vacant was just a facade for the sake of the residents. The bottom line is that they have no plans on filling that seat with another candidate, which is a slap in the face to the people of Kendall County.”

The next County Board meeting starts at 6 p.m. Feb. 7.

George Jones January 31, 2012 at 05:01 PM
"An honest mistake" is the way that good ole boy John Purcell wants to spin this story about appointing the good ole girl Suzanne Petrella, a close political friend and ally of his. Well, "An honest answer" and solution to all this is that voters should not vote for "trashy" County Board Incumbent Candidates including Purcell, Petrella, Vickery. Persons like them are in it for themselves and their rich farm and rural land developer friends who want to get the Prairie Parkway going again to bring mega and toxic Garbage Dump sites into Kendall County. I was there all during the meetings on redistricting. Purcell was asked to appoint a joint 5 Person Redistricting Committee of Citizens and Board Members ... and he refused. Purcell, knew exactly what Petrella was doing when she notched out a neighborhood to be in District 1 of a 2 District Plan where her current boyfriend lives. Purcell, Petrella, Vickery also clearly understood that 2 Large County Board Districts would make it harder for "fair minded Republicans" and other candidates to get elected versus a Better and more Representative 10 County Board District Plan which would better meet the needs of municipal residents where 80% of residents reside . I am a fair minded Republican, and Petrella, Purcell, Vickery are truely Bad Republicans. There are better candidates out there like Judy Gilmour who can help make Kendall County a better place to live.
The Fighting Fox January 31, 2012 at 05:11 PM
I’m curious to know, how exactly is it an honest mistake if you are supposed to live somewhere and then move away, but keep it a secret until you get caught? Maybe I grew up old fashioned but that sure seems a lot like dishonesty to me. Even though Ms. Petrella was elected to represent the citizens of District 1 she should not be re-appointed to fill her vacancy because through her deception she has violated a covenant of trust with the very people who elected her in the first place. I sincerely hope that Chairman Purcell sees his way clear and doesn’t re-appoint Ms. Petrella to the County Board. The Citizens of District 1 deserve better.
Jerry Bannister January 31, 2012 at 09:07 PM
It is frustrating when elected officials do whatever they can to protect the status quo. This seems to be an ongoing habit for some Kendall County elected officials. I don’t want to hijack this thread, but this is similar to Recorder referendum issue. Our County Board Chair says the Recorder’s office is running just fine, even though the Clerk & Recorder deliberately posted thousands of social security numbers on a public website. He then said that taxes will be have to be raised to pay for the Recorder’s salary if the voters split the Clerk & Recorder’s office. This is an empty threat to protect the Clerk so that she can continue to collect the full $85,000 per year salary. The Clerk & Recorder’s salary was set at @ $85,000 per year to cover both the Clerk and the Recorder’s offices. If the Clerk is no longer the Recorder, she should no longer get the Recorder’s portion of the salary. The salary should be split ($55K Clerk / $30K Recorder) along with the offices and it will not cost the taxpayers a dime. Just another example of insiders protecting the insiders instead of the taxpayers. I think the solution to the County Board issue is to appoint someone who is NOT running this cycle. This would send a message that you don't get a pass for making an error (I do believe it was an honest mistake). It also would not give a non-incumbent an advantage in the upcoming primary. A fair solution I think.
George Jones January 31, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Jerry, I think you should file Ethics Complaint against John Purcell and Debbie Gillete Has John Purcell, while acting in his official capacity as the Kendall County Chairman, espoused an opinion on a slated referendum issue? Has Debbie Gillette, while acting in her official capacity as the Kendall County Clerk, espoused an opinion on a slated referendum issue? I think they have: http://yorkville.patch.com/articles/new-office-possible-in-kendall-county http://www.ledgersentinel.com/article.asp?a=10128 I think Purcell and Gillette have come right out and "officially" said in so many words that voters in this March referendum issue should keep the Kendall County Clerk & Recorder - Debbie Gillette, in both positions. I hope someone can dig out Purcell's comments / quotes from the Oswego Patch, Ledger Sentinel, Aurora Beacon etc. and then go file an Ethics Complaint against Purcell and Gillette. In their official capacities and while on the taxpayers dime, elected officials cannot go mouthing off on referendum issues.
Jerry Bannister February 01, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Mr. Jones, you bring up an interesting question. I will refrain from commenting further on this issue....for now. Here is a link to what I believe is the Kendall County Ethic Ordinace language, if anyone would like to form their own opinions. http://www.co.kendall.il.us/statesattorney/pdf/Ethics_Ordiance0418.pdf
Daisy Doe February 01, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Mr. Wiess what exactly does this mean at the end of your statute "This Section does not apply to any elected or appointed officers or officials of any municipality having a population under 500,000."? Kendall County as of it's last Census has only a little over 100,000 residents. Doesn't that make your Statute null and void?
Todd Milliron February 01, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Daisy, I believe key word in the statute is "municipality"; the county jurisdiction is only over the UNincoroprated areas of the county. As the cities and village continue to annex additional land, the area that is county governed will continue to shrink. We do have many county wide responsibilities for certain designated areas of government, like the County Jail, County Court House, Animal Control, States Attorney, and the County Health Dept. Circuit Court Clerk, County Treasurer, County Clerk and Recorder of Deeds (Currently combined into one office) Sheriff's Dept. Coroner’s Office and County Highways not in City or Village Incorporated areas. One of the Primary Responsibilities of the KCB is to set the annual budget for each of the departments or county offices listed above. I am sure I may have left something out, but this listing is a good start of what is funded by the KCB and your property taxes.
Daisy Doe February 01, 2012 at 07:56 PM
The point I was trying to make is that the State's Attorney is sighting statute that doesn't apply. Read the article - he say's that she gets to retain her seat because of the statute. I don't think this statute applies. Then the question becomes, is there some local statute to say what happens when a board seat is vacated?
Jillian Duchnowski February 01, 2012 at 08:12 PM
Daisy, I had the same question as I was researching this article. When I asked Weis about it, he said a county is not a municipality. Although I didn't ask for further clarification, I would assume that section doesn't apply to villages or cities under 500,000 but does apply to counties.
Greg Nelson February 01, 2012 at 08:13 PM
The clear issue is not easy but one of a Trustee elected or appointed ridding the fence. If I moved out of area even for 1 day then I must resign period. Think of it like this if the President moved to Canada and said I live there should he still be the US President? It's pretty clear people - wrong is wrong and a Trustee must be trusted to do it right otherwise what's the point!
YorkVillain February 01, 2012 at 08:16 PM
This sure seems more like deed born of dishonest intention than an "honest mistake".
Todd Milliron February 01, 2012 at 09:22 PM
This appears to be a companion statute to the one cited = http://law.onecle.com/illinois/10ilcs5/25-11.html

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