Newly appointed St. Clair County Clerk Tom Holbrook said he accepted the post -- and a $20,000 pay cut from his current job -- because it will allow him to better serve his community.
The St. Clair County Board approved Holbrook's appointment on Monday to fill the seat of his predecessor Bob Delaney. Delaney, 54, resigned last week following allegations of sexual harassment and racial discrimination against employees in the County Clerk Department. Delaney denied the allegations.
Holbrook, a 63-year-old former state representative, said he was meeting daily with employees in his department to address their concerns.
"My goal here is to provide the citizens of St. Clair County with quality service and will do that by utilizing my most valuable asset as clerk -- my employees," Holbrook said. "I have been getting input on a lot of issues already. It is a wonderful crew in that office. There are always opportunities for improvements and we are going to seek them."
Holbrook said he is winding down his responsibilities at his current position as chair of the Illinois Pollution Control Board and will begin his clerkship on July 1. His state position has a salary of about $120,000 compared to the county clerk salary of about $100,800.
"When I became a state representative, I came from a job that could have made twice in the private sector," Holbrook said. "I had a lot more financial opportunity in the private sector. Many of my coworkers in the private sector were making more than double what state representatives made, and as a state representative I worked 80 hours a week for nine terms, same thing (80-hour weeks) with the Pollution Control Board.
"I saw a need to come back and help the county. It is a pay cut, but I see this as an ongoing part of my life in public service. They say if you love your job you never work a day in your life."
The County Board voted unanimously in favor of Holbrook's appointment. County Board member Nick Miller, a Republican representing Lebanon, voted present.
Miller said he voted present because there was a lack of transparency in Holbrook's appointment and there was not enough time for qualified people to apply for the county clerkship.
"There are plenty of deputies in that office that are perfectly qualified to do the job, perhaps even better than Mr. Holbrook," Miller said. "A lot of times what ends up happening in politics is one person drops out and they (appoint) the person wanted to run in the next election, giving them an incumbent edge. We ought to look at a policy where in this case the deputy would step up, perform the duties of the county clerk until the next election at which time voters decide who to serve as county clerk."
Miller said he also was concerned Holbrook potentially could draw pensions from two different government retirement systems, a pension system for state legislators and the county's Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.
Holbrook receives an annual pension from the General Assembly State Retirement System stemming from his time representing the 113th District from 1995 until 2011, according to state records. The News-Democrat is awaiting the dollar amount of the pension through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Holbrook said he closed his state pension when he joined the Pollution Control Board. Consequently, his pension is based on his $70,000 legislative salary without factoring in the higher salary earned while on the Pollution Control Board for nearly two years.
Holbrook said he did not participate in the county's retirement plan while a County Board member from 1981 until 1994 and the only public pension he receives is from the General Assembly Retirement System.
"I understand why it is such a hot button item," Holbrook said of public pensions. "I had concerns with the pensions programs as a state representative and tried to right the ship several times, but we were never successful. It's the hottest item next to political integrity and I'm here (at the county post) to help with that issue as well."
Holbrook would need to serve as the county clerk for eight years in order to participate in the county's retirement system. His salary and years served on the County Board cannot be applied towards retirement benefits related to his position as county clerk. A separate formula is applied for each elected county position held for eight or more years, according to the guidelines of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.
Holbrook said he has not decided whether he will seek election to the county clerkship when his term expires in 2014.
"I'm taking it one day at a time here but I won't rule anything out," Holbrook said. "Let's get the office running and then I'll make a decision."
Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2501.