A fire department’s protests won over the Madison County Board, with two board appointments voted down at Wednesday’s meeting.
Of 18 board appointments up for vote in Wednesday’s meeting of the Madison County Board, the county board denied two after it was disclosed that the recommendation of the representative county board member in each case had been overruled.
In one case, several members of the State Park Fire Department stood up at the meeting to request that they deny the appointment of Jimmy Wells to the State Park Fire Protection District Board, replacing longtime board member Bill Ellis. Their board representative is Gussie Glasper, D-Madison, who recommended that Ellis be retained.
But board members Lisa Ciampoli, R-Collinsville, and Helen Hawkins, D-Granite City, recommended Wells instead, and Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler followed their recommendation in nominating him to the board.
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“I’m sorry for the miscommunication, but I think he would do an excellent job,” Ciampoli said.
State Park Fire Chief Herb Simmons addressed the board, asking them to vote down Wells and retain Ellis. “Our department is trying to move itself forward,” he said. He said Ellis has been supportive of the fire department in its efforts to move forward with training, and could not understand why Hawkins was countering their recommendations as she does not represent State Park.
“Please rethink this appointment,” Simmons said. “If not, we will do our best to work with the appointment.”
Simmons was joined by several other State Park firefighters. He said 18 firefighters had signed a petition requesting Ellis be retained.
Board member Art Asadorian said he felt the board should respect the wishes of the firefighters. “The firefighters are behind this guy, and he must have treated them with respect and dignity to earn that,” Asadorian said. “To change that would be damaging to the morale of the department.”
Glasper reiterated her support for Ellis, as did Kristen Novacich, D-Granite City. “Mr. Ellis has done an excellent job, and I think we should go with the recommendation from Ms. Gussie Glasper and the State Park Fire Department,” she said.
Likewise, Hawkins had recommended Ernest Morris to replace Curt Edwards on the Pontoon Beach Public Water District Board.
Board member Mike Parkinson, D-Granite City, said he and the other two board members who represent that area supported keeping Edwards. “I don’t know where Morris’ name came from,” Parkinson said. “I don’t know why we’re making a change ... Curt Edwards has done a fine job, and I’ve received phone calls in support of him.”
The board voted 14-13 against Morris’ appointment and 15-12 against Wells.
Several board members noted that it has always been past practice to respect the recommendations of the board member who represents the area of the board or commission at hand. Ciampoli disputed that, saying that she had made recommendations in the past that were not considered.
Prenzler said that the votes only turned down the new appointments; there is no guarantee that the eventual appointments would go to the board members whose terms are up.
The board also took action regarding the number of animals euthanized by county animal control with a resolution that sets a goal to aim for a no-kill policy by 2021, with a plan to accomplish that goal to be submitted by the end of this year.
Madison County Animal Control does not adopt out dogs and cats, but works with at least half a dozen nonprofit organizations including the Metro-East Humane Society, Partners 4 Pets and Hope Rescue, among others.
Partners 4 Pets and Metro-East Humane Society had set up a few cages with puppies and small dogs outside the county board meeting, which drew quite a few passers-by in the hours leading up to the board meeting.
Animal Control Director Mike Firsching said they have been making progress over the last few years. “We want to keep that progress going,” he said, because there are still too many animals that have to be put down.
The board approved the resolution by a unanimous voice vote. However, Firsching said the best thing that would prevent hundreds of animals being euthanized each year would be spaying and neutering pets. “The number one reason why we’ve made as much progress as we have is that we’re really getting the word out about spay and neuter,” he said.
The organizations also left black-and-white baseball caps with a stylized symbol resembling a dog’s face for all county board members. Hulme said they were a gift from the organizations to the county board.
▪ The board resolved the issue of salary for Todd Fulton, who was hired two months ago as the new emergency management director, replacing longtime EMA director Larry Ringering. Fulton’s original appointment was listed at a salary of $85,000, but at the meeting, Ciampoli made a motion to reduce the salary to $58,000. It was approved, and Fulton was hired at that salary.
The next month, a proposal was listed on the agenda to restore Fulton’s salary, but was removed from the agenda. The issue was remanded to the personnel committee, which came up with a compromise approved by the board Wednesday: Fulton’s salary is set at $72,500 retroactive to his hire date. Once he completes the certifications necessary for his new position, his job will be reviewed to determine whether the salary of $85,000 would be appropriate.
Parkinson asked if the certification or job audit would be performed by county personnel. Prenzler said both the certifications and the job audit would be performed by an outside agency. It was approved 26-1, with board member Judy Kuhn, R-Trenton, as the sole no vote.
▪ Parkinson objected to the minutes, stating that it reflected a vote to approve Kristen Poshard for a new title and pay increase. He and several other board members said they did not recall any discussion of a pay raise, only to approve her appointment.
Prenzler said he believed the new position had an implied pay raise matching the previous economic developer’s salary of approximately $100,000.
“She’s doing the same job and we’re giving her (an $8,000) pay raise within a three-month period,” Parkinson said. “We did not discuss a pay raise, only an increase in title.” He said the increase of salary was added after the board vote, and he would like to know whether it was legal to add the salary after the fact.
Prenzler argued that the board’s vote to approve the new position was “implicit” to include the higher pay rate. “I think it was understood that she would be receiving the same salary as Frank Miles,” he said.
A motion was made to amend the minutes, but Prenzler said that would be tantamount to reducing Poshard’s pay. Board members asked for a legal opinion, but Prenzler declined, instead having County Clerk Debra Ming-Mendoza read back the motion. State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons, who usually provides legal opinions to advise the board, was not present at the meeting.
The board then voted 19-8 to table the minutes until the next meeting.