Metro-East News

Madison County Board still fighting about legality of its first meeting

Kurt Prenzler sworn in as county board chairman

Kurt Prenzler was sworn in as Madison County Board chairman Monday by Judge Luther Simmons.
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Kurt Prenzler was sworn in as Madison County Board chairman Monday by Judge Luther Simmons.

Board member Art Asadorian, D-Granite City, renewed his request for a special meeting to re-do the organizational meeting from Dec. 5. That was the first meeting of the new board elected in November, when the board’s majority swung from Democratic to Republican and Chairman Kurt Prenzler defeated longtime incumbent Alan Dunstan.

But at that first meeting, Prenzler handed the gavel to Steve Adler, a former county board member who has since been hired in a deputy administration role. At the time, Adler held no elected or appointed position.

Several board members asked State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons to determine whether the meeting was legal. Gibbons has said that in his opinion, and in the opinion of the Illinois Attorney General’s office, with whom he consulted, Adler’s presiding made it an illegal meeting.

At that meeting, the entire new board was sworn in and multiple other actions were taken. Asadorian said he wants to call a special meeting to re-do those actions and retroactively legitimize the subsequent votes of the county board.

Asadorian attempted to call for the special meeting at the last county board meeting and was gaveled out of order by Prenzler. On Wednesday, Asadorian tried again during the “new business” section of the meeting.

Asadorian said there are three ways a special meeting can be called: It can be called by the chairman, by a minimum of 10 board members signing a request or by any member at a regular meeting.

“At this time, I am calling for a special meeting,” Asadorian said.

But Prenzler said that would violate the Open Meetings Act and gaveled Asadorian out of order again. Asadorian then called for an appeal of Prenzler’s decision, which he said was then supposed to be voted on by the county board as a whole.

“You’re out of order, as you were at the last meeting,” Prenzler said and hit the gavel again.

After the meeting, Asadorian and board member Jack Minner, D-Edwardsville, said they would collect the signatures to call the special meeting “so we can legitimize everything we are doing.”

Asadorian said he is trying to make sure the county is covered legally and prevent any lawsuits brought as a result of board action.

“It’s his county to run; he’s elected and he’s got the majority,” Asadorian said. “But if it comes out that we aren’t official, the taxpayers are on the hook.”

Asadorian and Minner said they expected to have no problem getting enough signatures to call for the special meeting. At least one Republican has offered to sign, just to get the issue out of the way, Asadorian said. Minner said all the potential conflicts could be resolved in one meeting to retroactively approve the board and its actions since.

“I’m not trying to make a circus out of it,” Asadorian said. “I’m trying to legitimize it.”

Pension decision

Madison County employees will have to work more hours to qualify for IMRF after a vote by the county board.

Government agencies can choose whether employees must work a minimum of 600 or 1,000 hours a year in order to qualify for the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. Madison County has had a minimum of 600 hours, or roughly 12 hours per week of a 50-week year. The new requirement would bring it up to about 20 hours a week.

However, the Madison County Board voted Wednesday to change that minimum to 1,000 hours. The requirement only applies to new hires and cannot be applied to current employees. The vote was unanimous.

The previous board had voted in September to drop its members out of IMRF to reduce the cost of pensions. The vote came after the state passed a new regulation that board members would have to submit time sheets to prove their work hours for IMRF.

At that time, 19 of the 29 board members participated in IMRF. Dropping county board members was to save approximately $32,000 a year in county contributions, per estimates at the time.

Other business

The board also voted to approve David Baker for the county mental health board. Baker is a registered behavioral health nurse with 20 years of clinical management experience in chemical dependency, according to his resume. He is currently working on a master’s at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He was originally nominated last month, but Prenzler withdrew his nomination on the floor. He was re-nominated for the mental health board and affirmed Wednesday by voice vote, with some members voting no.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

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