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County board to keep per diems, benefits : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
County board to keep per diems, benefits
Resolution to do away with current system rejected

by Matt Schury


After months of discussing changes to how Kendall County Board members should be compensated, the boardroom went silent Tuesday night.

A resolution to do away with the board's per diem payment system and switch to just a salary for board members failed in a 5-5 deadlock vote.

The failed resolution also would have required board members to pay the full cost of their health insurance as well as doing away with mileage reimbursement for in-county travel.

Board members voting in favor of the resolution included Board Chairman John Shaw, Amy Cesich, Scott Gryder, Matthew Prochaska and Lynn Cullick. Voting against the motion were John Purcell, Jeff Wehrli, Judy Gilmour, Dan Koukol and Elizabeth Flowers.

The motion stipulated that County Board members would not be allowed to collect $85 per diems for attending meetings. The resolution would instead have increased board members' salaries from $200 a month to $1,000 a month.

They would also be able to participate in the employee health and dental insurance plan offered by the county with the full cost of those plans paid for by the County Board member. The resolution also said board members would not be allowed to collect mileage reimbursements for in-county travel but would continue to receive reimbursement based on the IRS stipulations for travel to out-of-county events.

The failure of the resolution essentially keeps the compensation package board members receive at the status quo. Board members receive an $85 per diem for attending meetings and a $200 monthly stipend. They get mileage reimbursements for both in-county and out-of-county travel and are also eligible to participate in the county employee's health and dental insurance with most of the cost of the insurance picked up by taxpayers.

Under the resolution, the changes wouldn't have taken effect until 2016 to avoid a "bifurcated system" of compensation, with five board members on the old system and five on the new.

After the meeting, some board members said they were not surprised no discussion took place before the tie vote since the issues had been talked about at length for the last few months.

Cesich chaired the County Board's Per Diem Ad Hoc Committee which was charged with coming up with a solution to the compensation package in the wake of a lengthy investigation and audit by the Kendall County State's Attorney Eric Weis.

For the last few years Weis' office has been looking into how board members have claimed per diems and mileage for attending meetings and found some errors and mistakes that he told the board need to be corrected.

The audit showed some board members taking payments for meetings that never took place or no record of taking place.

Cesich said that she wasn't surprised board members didn't debate the issue one last time before taking a vote.

Prochaska, who also sat on the ad hoc committee, admitted the issue had been "discussed to death."

Gryder said the charge he took away from the committee was to simplify the system and take out the ambiguous nature of when board members should collect payment for attending meetings.

Cullick agreed that she was not surprised the vote went the way it did.

"I think that this is an issue the board has been struggling with for a long time and we know that there isn't a solution that would make everyone happy," Cullick said. "We were just trying our best to straighten out the system as it exists."

Cullick added that the point of the moving away from per diems completely was to avoid another investigation.

New forms
to verify attendance

The board did approve requiring members to fill out attendance forms for county board committee meetings and special committee assignments. They also added a mileage log for that reimbursement and paperwork for collecting for submitting salary vouchers.

The motion to approve those forms passed in a 9-1 split vote with Wehrli casting the lone no vote. The board did discuss the forms briefly before approving them.

Wehrli explained that he was fine with the three forms the board approved but wasn't comfortable with one that now requires members to turn in an attendance sheet for attending County Board committee meetings and special appointments. Wehrli particularly didn't think board members should have to turn in an attendance sheet for meetings outside the standing committees.

"We're trying to make government simpler and to make everybody fill out one of these (attendance forms) every time we go to a meeting and have somebody go over them every time is, to me, an incredible step in the wrong direction," Wehrli told the board.

Board members will be required to file the paperwork before attending meetings beginning June 1.

Purcell said he agreed with Wehrli but he supported the forms even if he said they were a form of "babysitting." Purcell said he also couldn't figure out the point of a stipulation that the attendance forms turned in by board members for special appointments list at least one other person who attended the meeting.

"I think it has something to do with verification," Shaw said.

Cesich pointed out that the board had an opportunity to change the compensation completely to salaries earlier and not have to deal with the forms at all.

"I'm just beside myself ... what is going to make us happy," Cesich said.

Koukol said that he was puzzled by a provision that the forms be turned in to the county treasurer's office within 60 days of the meeting being held.

"This voucher says they're good for 60 days to get paid. What happens if you have old vouchers that are older than 60 days?" Koukol asked.

"Better get them in then," Assistant State's Attorney Leslie Johnson said.

Flowers also had some questions about the 60-day window.

"Anything after that 60 days would not be able to be contested? Is that how this would work?" Flowers asked.

Johnson replied that the intent of the forms and the deadline was for the treasurer's office, along with the county clerk, to verify board members were tending meetings

"You would have to submit the voucher within 60 days after the meeting," Johnson said.

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