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County board per diem committee convenes : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
County board per diem committee convenes
Panel will work to clarify process for paying board members

by Matt Schury


Getting rid of some gray.

That is the main objective for the Kendall County Board's new Per Diem Ad Hoc Committee that held their first meeting Tuesday.

The gray is the ambiguity that is sometimes associated with when and how board members should claim per diem payments for attending meetings.

One member of the public attended the meeting.

The committee chaired by Amy Cesich includes Scott Gryder, Matt Prochaska, Judy Gilmour and Lynn Cullick. The five board members along with State's Attorney Eric Weis, Treasurer Jill Ferko and Jeff Wilkins, the county's administrator talked about what the county could do to add more checks and balances when per diem vouchers are turned in as well as when a meeting should qualify for a per diem.

"I don't think you're ever going to get rid of the gray," Ferko said, but added that they have to define as best they can which meetings qualify for per diems and which do not.

Ferko also suggested having check. balances and reviews in place to help determine when it is appropriate for board members to collect payments for meetings that might "pop up."

The committee didn't make any recommendations, but Cesich said she felt like they were off to a good start. They are scheduled to meet again Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 6 p.m.

Board members are currently allowed to collect an $85 per diem for attending board and committee meetings. They are on the honor system for attending those meetings.

Weis has been conducting a lengthy investigation into how board members have collected theper diems. Weis has declined to comment on the ongoing investigation, which also involves an auditing firm, which is conducting a forensic audit. It also includes the Kendall County Grand Jury, which has been subpoenaing attendance records from outside commissions and boards that Kendall County Board members sit on. Weis has reported that the audit has cost the county over $21,000 so far and has been

Weis told the committee they need to do something so that per diems can be verified but cautioned the board to keep it simple.

"We wouldn't be in a situation right now of spending $20,000 for on a forensic auditor if everything was hunky dory," Weis said. "If everything was running smooth and everything was running fine we wouldn't be in that situation."

Current board members under investigation include John Purcell, Dan Koukol, Jeff Wehrli, Elizabeth Flower and Chairman John Shaw. Former board members that are part of the investigation include Suzanne Petrella, Anne Vickery, Bob "HD" Davidson, Pam Parr, Jessie Hafenrichter and Nancy Martin.

The committee also discussed if they should just focus on per diems or take into account other forms of compensation board members receive such as mileage.

In addition to mileage, board members receive a salary, stipend, health insurance (if they opt in) and can be vested in the IMRF state retirement system.

Cesich said she thought the committee could look at per diems but also see how other forms of compensation are being handled as well.

Gryder agreed they need to look at the entire system of compensation.

"My understanding of what the chairman is trying to do is to look at the whole system so that we don't end up with a grand jury investigation," Gryder said. " I think that includes redoing the compensation overall."

Most County Board committee meetings can be divided into two categories-standing committees and special committee assignments and appointments. Most members of the ad hoc committee seemed to be in favor of having board members just claim per diems for the special committee assignments and appointments.

However, Weis pointed out that some of those special committees and appointments require the county to have a representative in order to participate. He asked if it is fair for board members to have to attend those meetings and not be compensated.

The committee reviewed a list of special and standing committee that had been approved by the County Board and assigned by the county chairman.

"Once you get off that list then that's the grayness and do you say that's part of being a County Board member?" Wilkins said.

Cesich mentioned they are going to look at the special committees and for the next meeting Wilkins is going to tell them which committees are required by statute to have a board representative and which are voluntary.

"I think the consensus ... is that we possibly do away with compensation for those special committees," Cesich said.

They also may look at changing the board rules of order about how a meeting is defined.

Cesich wondered aloud if something like a roundtable meeting should be consider a meeting that board members can receive compensation for attending.

A sample form was included in the packet for the meeting that would be used to record attendance at meetings. It would possibly be filled out by the chairman of the committee and returned to Ferko's office following the meeting.

According to their rules of order, the board cannot change the compensation for themselves. Consequently, previous boards have waited until they are all up for re-election following the decennial census before adjusting the dollar amount for per diems, stipends, salaries, health insurance provisions and mileage.

Weis told the board, while they can't change the amount they are paid, they can change the circumstances for how or when they are paid, which are covered in their county rules of order.

Any changes made in the amount in dollars of compensation could present logistical problems, with half the board being paid one way and half another way if the amounts board members are paid in compensation are adjusted.

"I'm sure it can be done but it would present some interesting issues when it comes to that," Weis said.

One of the things out lined in the committee's purpose is reflected in the county board's rules of order that says that any compensation revisions would have to be approved 180 days prior to Dec. 1 and would apply to new board members on Dec. 1, 2014 and Dec. 1, 2016.

Ferko said that she would like to have board members turn in per diem vouchers and time sheets at the same time each month. Ferko said currently some members turn them in after the first county board meeting of the month, some turn them in after the second. Some board members turn in vouchers on the first of each month.

She suggested all board members submit their time sheets at the end of the month and then have a review process between the treasurer's office and the clerk's office that would allow them to check minutes against the vouchers.

"Then what I'm suggesting is the possibility that anything that doesn't pass the stink test, or something that we can't confirm or verify, we would submit those for review at a COW (committee of the whole) meeting," Ferko said.

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