Metro-East News

Madison County OKs new officials, but might have had a second illegal meeting

There is a new county administrator in Madison County as questions continue whether either meeting of the new board was legal.

Two appointments from Monday’s agenda were considered again Thursday, as the county board appointed Douglas Hulme to replace Joseph Parente as county administrator and Rob Dorman to replace Timothy Renick as information technology director.

But after Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons issued a written opinion informing Prenzler that both his office and the Illinois Attorney General’s office recommend that the board have a “do-over” meeting to swear in the board and re-vote on the appointment of Tresurer Candace Gilstrap, some county board members questioned whether Thursday’s meeting was legal — Thursday’s meeting was called by Prenzler himself and not by a minimum of 10 members of the county board.

Gibbons was not present, but assistant state’s attorney John McGuire sat in his place, as has happened at previous meetings when Gibbons did not attend. However, prior to the meeting, Prenzler requested that McGuire move to another seat in favor of private attorney Kevin Babb. At the beginning of the meeting, Prenzler stated that Babb was there to advise him on procedures and would have no other function.

“This is not a legal meeting, and we cannot take any action,” said Jack Minner, D-Edwardsville.

Art Asadorian, D-Granite City requested that the board call for another special meeting on Monday. But Prenzler said he is “confident that that meeting was absolutely legal” and gaveled further arguments out of order.

“This meeting is legal. That’s my ruling,” Prenzler said.

“But that’s not your decision,” said Jim Dodd, D-Alton.

Other board members argued that when the Thursday meeting was called, it was to discuss committee appointments. Later, the department heads for county administrator and information technology director were added.

“Last meeting I thought it wasn’t a bad idea to tap the brakes a little,” said County Board Member Chris Slusser, R-Wood River, who is also chairman of the Madison County Republican Party. But Slusser said because of the importance of the county administrator position, he felt it was a good idea to move forward. “I don’t see any problem with his resume, and I think we need to move this forward.”

The county’s job description specifies that a county administrator must have the minimum qualifications of a master’s degree in public administration or related field and seven years’ experience.

Prenzler said that Parente had resigned with a severance package that increased the number of months’ health insurance he would receive. When asked if any of the department heads to be fired were told their benefits would be challenged if they did not sign resignations, Prenzler said “we have had no terminations. We have had resignations.”

Another board member asked if it had been discussed in the chairman’s office prior to the meeting taking place. “I don’t believe so,” Prenzler said.

Slusser said there were several board members discussing the issues in Prenzler’s office, but there were no more than five board members in the room, which would not constitute a quorum under the Open Meetings Act.

At some points during the discussion, Prenzler declined to recognize board members, stating that he was re-establishing a board policy that each member can only speak once on the issue.

When Hulme’s appointment came to a vote, Asadorian refused to vote yes, no, or to abstain. “I will vote when someone explains to me at what point during the nine years I’ve been on the board was it decided you can only speak one time on an issue?” he said.

Prenzler said that was his ruling and reminded Asadorian that they were in the middle of a vote, which is conducted electronically by pressing a button to save calling 29 names.

Then Slusser said he felt it would be okay for Asadorian to speak, and Prenzler said he would allow it.

Asadorian said he objected to the addition of new motions to the agenda, that the meeting was called for committee appointments and was being done with no notification. “Everyone was surprised that it was being called in the first place,” he said. “When we get an agenda, that agenda should be set, especially if it’s a special meeting.”

Prenzler said he believed the board had received proper notice, and called the vote. Hulme was confirmed 15-13, mostly along party lines with James Futrell (R-East Alton) absent. Hulme’s salary will be $120,000 a year.

The board next considered the appointment of Rob Dorman as information technology director. At that point, the board voted to 15-13, again mostly along party lines, to go into executive session to discuss as a personnel matter. The board went into closed session at about 5:45 p.m. and came back out about 6:05 p.m.

The board then debated whether Dorman’s appointment could be subject to passing a criminal background check through the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, as the information technology department has access to personal information.

Major Jeff Connor said the sheriff’s department can do a criminal background check, but the personnel department must request it after there is a signed application, and some departments have more additional policies and procedures because of privacy laws. He said after employment, there is a secondary level of background check including fingerprinting to allow higher clearance for access to records.

The board voted 24-4 to approve Dorman’s appointment.

Committee assignments were unanimously approved in a voice vote, though some board members requested that their assignments be changed. Prenzler said he would consider amendments and would get back with the board members who requested changes.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

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