Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler has nominated Republican Party chairman Chris Slusser to succeed him as treasurer, 11 days after Slusser was sworn in to the county board.
Prenzler announced Thursday evening that he has nominated Slusser as his successor to the treasurer’s office. Slusser, R-Wood River, was elected in November and sworn in Dec. 5 in the County Board’s controversial reorganization meeting.
At that same meeting, Prenzler nominated deputy treasurer Candance Gilstrap as interim treasurer. She was approved by the county board and sworn in at that time.
The reorganization meeting was controversial because Prenzler chose to hand the gavel to Steve Adler, a former County Board member and nominee for one of the department head positions Prenzler is replacing. But the state’s attorney’s office and Illinois Attorney General’s office have advised that only the County Board chairman or chairman pro tem can conduct a meeting of the board, and thus recommended that the business conducted at that meeting be voted again, including swearing in the new board members. Prenzler declined to do so, stating that he believes that meeting was legal.
Slusser has worked for the past four years as a commercial real estate asset manager with RLP Management and has previously worked as chief financial officer for ROI Realty Partners and as an investment adviser, according to a statement issued by Prenzler.
I believe Chris has the integrity and background necessary to safeguard the taxpayer’s money. I’ve known Chris the past 10 years, plus he has experience in county government.
Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler
Slusser previously served on the County Board from 2008 to 2012. According to Prenzler, Slusser voted against every property tax increase and introduced measures to reduce taxes.
“I believe Chris has the integrity and background necessary to safeguard the taxpayer’s money,” Prenzler said. “I’ve known Chris the past 10 years, plus he has experience in county government.”
Slusser said he has always been interested in the treasurer’s office. “I’m excited about this chapter and the fact I am able to serve not only my district, but all the taxpayers of Madison County,” he said.
Slusser has a bachelor’s degree in speech communication with a minor in business administration from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He is currently chairman of the Madison County Republican Party.
Prenzler had served six years as treasurer before his election as County Board chairman. He resigned as treasurer in order to take his new position.
There are two procedures for replacing an elected officeholder, according to the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office: an interim appointment or full appointment. As Gilstrap was an interim appointment, it is legal to then appoint another person as a full replacement. However, it is subject to confirmation by the Madison County Board, and Slusser will have to resign from the County Board prior to being appointed as treasurer.
Prenzler said he plans to nominate Chrissy Dutton of Bethalto to Slusser’s seat on the County Board, which also would be subject to approval by the board.
Both appointments appear at the top of the agenda for next Wednesday’s regular board meeting. A number of other appointments are also on the agenda, including board member Michael Walters (R-Godfrey) as “president pro-tem” of the board; Michael Firsching as director of animal control; and appointments to various board and commissions for several other people, including Republican board members Donald Moore, Philip Chapman, Tom McRae, Jamie Goggin and Mick Madison, among others.
Several of the appointments are people who have been political supporters of Prenzler in the past. Weber, a former prosecutor and prominent Republican, has previously been an adviser of Prenzler’s and was the center of a controversy during Prenzler’s second run for treasurer. Prenzler had arranged for Weber to purchase his ex-wife’s delinquent taxes in a no-bid zero-interest sale prior to the tax auction. Prenzler has maintained he believes this was a legal procedure. At the time, several board members called for Prenzler’s resignation, and a protest march took place outside a Prenzler fundraiser.
Other appointments include:
• Attorney Mary Beth Williams, a 2016 candidate for Glen Carbon Village Board whose husband opposed State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons in the November election. She is being nominated as ethics adviser;
• Veterinarian Mike Firsching as the new director of animal control. Firsching coordinated several political campaigns with Prenzler, including the successful referenda to stop the jail renovation bonds and to decrease the county’s property tax rate;
• Herb Clay, a former Madison County probation office supervisor and Edwardsville city alderman who served two years’ probation on a charge of cocaine possession in 2004, and has been nominated to the mental health board;
• Troy Mayor Al Adomite, who has been nominated to Southern Illinois Law Enforcement Commission.
What does not appear on the agenda are the new department heads that caused controversy at previous meetings. Upon his election as chairman, Prenzler announced he intended to replace seven department heads in county government with new appointees.
Those appointments were to be voted on at the first reorganizational meeting, and tabled by vote of the board to the regular meeting on Dec. 21. But none of those appointments appear on the agenda, except for Firsching as director of animal control.
The department heads being fired each were offered a separation agreement promising them four months’ salary and full benefits through April 30, 2017, including accrued benefits through the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.
The agreements each state that none of the department heads was being fired for cause, or that their separation was “in any way related to performance.”
“Rather, employee’s separation is the result of a change in county administration,” the agreements read.
The dollar amounts for each person’s salary and separation payment were not written into the contracts, only that they would receive a payout of four months’ salary plus benefits. The estimated payouts are therefore based on the employees’ 2015 earnings as previously reported to the News-Democrat for the public salary database.
Employees that have signed these agreements include:
• Joseph Parente, county administrator; estimated separation pay $43,628.
• Barry Harris, director of administration services; estimated separation pay $29,658.
• Timothy Renick, director of information services; estimated separation pay $35,070.
• David Stoecklin, director of employment and training; estimated separation pay $33,350.
• Frank Miles, director of community development; estimated separation pay $32,023.
• Dr. David Hall, director of animal control; estimated separation pay $10,436.
The total cost for replacing the department heads therefore would be an estimated $185,165.
The separation agreements were acquired via a Freedom of Information Act request and are dated Dec. 2-5, the days leading up to Prenzler’s swearing-in as chairman.
The original list Prenzler provided to the board last week also included replacing facilities management director Kurt Geschwend with Christopher Doucleff. However, the county’s response to the News-Democrat’s FOIA request stated that there was no separation agreement for Geschwend, and he remains a county employee. It was not immediately known if he would remain in his position as facilities management director.
The request response also stated that there was no written or email correspondence between any of the fired department heads and any member of the Madison County administration, including Prenzler or the new county administrator, Douglas Hulme.