Metro-East News

Madison County considers new appointments, two others have already been hired

The Madison County Board will vote Wednesday night on a county treasurer amid a slew of new appointments from the new administration — though two others have already been hired and begun work.

Chris Slusser was nominated last week to succeed Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler as treasurer. Slusser was chairman of the Madison County Republican Party through the fall election, in which the County Board’s balance shifted from a long-time Democratic majority to a Republican majority. Slusser himself was also elected to represent Wood River on the County Board, and was sworn in on Dec. 5.

Slusser said he has since resigned as chairman of the Madison County GOP after learning he would be nominated as treasurer. He said he did not perceive any conflict between serving as treasurer and as a political party chairman; after all, Circuit Clerk Mark Von Nida is chairman of the Madison County Democratic Party.

Instead, Slusser said it was a personal decision. He has two daughters under the age of 2 and “a very understanding wife,” he said. “At some point, something’s got to give,” Slusser said. “I miss out on a lot of things by being involved in so many things.”

In the meantime, Prenzler has nominated Chrissy Dutton to take Slusser’s place on the County Board. “In my opinion, she’s an upgrade over me,” Slusser said.

Slusser’s nomination will go before the County Board at its meeting Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the board is also considering another slate of appointments to boards and commissions, some of which have changed from the initial agenda posted last week.

Among those changes:

• Attorney Don Weber’s name has been withdrawn from nomination to the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention Council, in favor of Jeremy Plank. Weber, a former prosecutor and prominent Republican, has been a close political ally of Prenzler’s and was the center of a controversy during Prenzler’s second run for treasurer, after Prenzler arranged for Weber to purchase his ex-wife’s delinquent taxes in a no-bid zero-interest sale prior to the tax auction. At the time, several board members called for Prenzler’s resignation and a protest march took place outside a Prenzler fundraiser.

• Troy Mayor Allen Adomite’s name has been withdrawn from nomination to the Southern Illinois Law Enforcement Commission. However, that change is not yet reflected on the agenda as posted on the Madison County website.

Prenzler also will ask the County Board to rescind two appointments that were approved at their November meeting. Edward Pinnell and Anthony Traxler were nominated by outgoing Chairman Alan Dunstan for the mental health board and approved by the County Board on Nov. 16. At the time, board members questioned whether the appointments should wait until the new board was sworn in, but were told that the appointments expired at the end of November and needed to be renewed.

Prenzler said he believes that was inaccurate. “Those were not Alan Dunstan’s appointments to make; those were mine to make,” Prenzler said. “Because they haven’t begun their terms, we are going to rescind them.”

Prenzler said he had “no concerns” about Pinnell and Traxler’s qualifications for the mental health board, “but we have two outstanding people for that board.”

He has nominated David Baker and Herb Clay to take their places. According to their resumes, David Baker is a registered behavioral health nurse with 20 years of clinical management experience in chemical dependency. He is currently working on a masters degree at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Herb Clay’s resume lists 30 years’ experience as chief probation officer, followed by work as an investigator in pharmaceutical litigation for area law firms. Clay was also an Edwardsville city alderman who served two years’ probation for cocaine possession after his arrest in 2003 and guilty plea in 2004. During a drug interdiction in East St. Louis, Clay tried to flee, nearly striking police cars before he was stopped and refused to be handcuffed, leading East St. Louis officers to use a stun gun to subdue him.

Also on the list: Appointing Michael Firsching, a veterinarian and another political ally of Prenzler’s, as director of animal control.

At the first reorganizational meeting of the new County Board, Prenzler had proposed replacing seven department heads with his own nominees. Six of those people have signed separation agreements totaling more than $185,000 for four months’ salary and benefits, estimates based on their 2015 salaries as reported to the News-Democrat’s public salary database.

The seventh was facilities management director Kurt Geschwend, who remains an employee of the county. Prenzler confirmed, however, that Geschwend would not remain as director of his department.

Of the other six, Douglas Hulme was confirmed as county administrator at the last meeting and Firsching will be voted on Wednesday. The remaining four were supposed to be voted at this week’s regular meeting, but have been withdrawn.

“I’m going to pull those back and take more time,” Prenzler said. “We are evaluating… to make sure we have had the full opportunity to review anything and make sure that we review all the circumstances.”

County Board approval is required to confirm department heads under Madison County ordinances.

However, Prenzler confirmed that Steve Adler, nominated as director of administration services, and Kristin Poshard, nominated as director of community development, have been hired as county employees under other job descriptions.

Poshard will earn a salary of approximately $92,000 and carries a title of chief deputy. Adler was hired on Dec. 9 as deputy county administrator at $44.80 per hour, Prenzler said. That would be an estimated $93,184 annually, based on a 40-hour work week.

“We just decided to do that because he has special competencies and we needed those right away,” Prenzler said. “This county government has really been without leadership since the election, and we needed to get good leadership involved as quickly as possible.”

The Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office confirmed that they have been asked by county board members to research whether Adler and Poshard’s hirings were legal.

The board meets at 5 p.m. Wednesday in the County Administration Building.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald