Below is the text from my recent letter to the editor…..
A new ordinance to establish an Executive Committee of the Winnebago County Board was introduced in the Operations Committee meeting. Here are five things you need to know:
1. It is a power grab. This change would drastically shift governance oversight from a 20-member board to a few board members. It would weaken the majority of the board members. It would also shift administrative and executive duties to a sub-group of part-time board members. The well-documented problems at the county (FBI investigation, IT issue, sauna, chocolates, etc.) did NOT occur because of the committee structure or because the board has fewer powers of oversight compared with other boards. Turning the legislative branch into the executive branch of county government will create more of a mess, not less of one.
2. The timing is bad. Why establish a fundamentally new organizational structure just ahead of a new board and new chairman taking office? Why not when the FBI investigation of the county began over a year ago? Why not two or three years ago? Why not wait until post-election and entrust the new team to come together and align on how to best serve taxpayers and what specific changes to make? This overreach is also a distraction from focusing on the budget gap in FY ’16 and FY ’17.
3. Illusion of reform. Shoving reform-minded board members and the next chairman to the side will be lauded as reform but will only ensure business as usual. It would be the new way to do back-room deals. Here is how I would describe this: complete disregard for best practice, conflict of interest, political retribution and more of the same good ol’ boy politics.
4. It violates state statute. Calling this an executive committee is disingenuous. The actual language reflects something quite different. I had an attorney review the proposed document and was informed this violates state statue. Specifically, the sections on the appointment process, reporting process, and part of the negotiation language do not pass legal muster.
5. Back room deals. The State’s Attorney’s Office indicated that their office was NOT consulted before this was introduced in an open meeting as is best practice in public entities. Instead, Paul Nicolosi and Gino Gulluzzo of Hinshaw Consulting were brought into the fold to help Gary Jury, John Guevara, and Eli Nicolosi. Please note: Hinshaw Consulting has accumulated a considerable amount of billable hours from no-bid contracts for consulting from the county and other taxing entities. If this work is being done pro bono, why would Mr. Nicolosi have such a vested interest in helping concentrate power in the hands of a few district-elected board members? Lastly, if the goal of these proposed changes was improved transparency, then why not actually act in a transparent manner in the process?
My request is simple and will ultimately serve the current and future boards well:
- Let the voters decide first.
- Do not make structural changes to the County Board or Administrative process until after the election. This includes revised versions of the ordinance.
- Do not replace top leadership positions until after the election.
- Committee appointments for the next term should not be made until after the election.
- Focus on the closing the multi-million dollar budget gap.
- A public report out of any proposed year over year changes to the chairman’s budget prior to its passage.
- After the election, a large number of changes will need to be made; one of which may be a re-look at board structure. All options should be considered. Of course a strong, engaged, and informed board is needed. I welcome that and that is why a rushed, sloppy effort is self-serving and exposes hidden agendas.
The community needs to watch the county very closely before and after the election, regardless of whom is elected chairman. Speak-up if unhappy. Remember: Sunshine is the best disinfectant.
Candidate, Winnebago County Board Chairman
Note: Since the writing of this letter, the proposal was pulled from the County Board agenda for further review.