Metro-East News

Challenger for Madison County recorder blasts incumbent’s hiring of campaign aide, ‘life coach’

Shannon Bradford
Shannon Bradford

Opening salvos between challenger Shannon Bradford and incumbent Amy Meyer brought attention to the Madison County recorder’s Democratic primary race in recent days.

Bradford is an attorney and former clerk in the county recorder’s office. Meyer is an attorney and was elected county recorder in 2012. No Republican has filed to run against the winner in the general election, though one could be named by the Madison County Republican Party after the primary.

Bradford recently questioned Meyer’s decisions hiring Laura Burkey Coaching for $1,810 at taxpayer expense, calling her a “life coach.” Bradford also questioned the hiring of Kristen Poshard — who worked on Meyer’s campaign — to conduct a business practices audit of the office for $4,500.

“Politicians should not use their offices to reward their associates at the expense of the taxpayers,” Bradford said. “This kind of insider trading and wasteful spending by establishment politicians is exactly why people have lost faith in government.”

But Meyer said that Burkey was not acting as a “life coach” for Meyer, but was providing training and professional development for the entire recorder’s office staff. She said the county does not provide in-house professional development services, so she hired Burkey as an Edwardsville native with experience in communications training and professional development for the workplace. Burkey conducted a six-week program for the employees, training them on customer service and teamwork within the workplace, according to Meyer.

Politicians should not use their offices to reward their associates at the expense of the taxpayers.

Challenger Shannon Bradford

“We shifted the focus to our work and the office,” Meyer said. “We ultimately became a more harmonious office, increasing efficiency and really providing excellent customer service. Because we were working as a team, not only was our productivity improved, the office has become a much more pleasant and professional place to come into every day.”

Burkey describes herself as a “thought, behavior and communication coach.” Her LinkedIn profile lists previous work in live talk radio and a self-improvement column in the Edwardsville Intelligencer, as well as recommendations from business and personal clients.

“Clients throughout the U.S. and internationally hire me to help them with their career performance and personal success,” Burkey said. “The training that I offer is always in direct response to the individual or group needs and desires. In the case of the Madison County Recorder’s Office, Ms. Meyer was seeking to improve what is very common and what any company desires in their workplace: improved morale, focus, and productivity.”

Meyer disputes Bradford’s characterization of Burkey’s work.

“I didn’t hire a life coach in my office,” she said. “When I took office as recorder, there had never been any employee development training, nor had there been a formal internal investigation and audit of office procedures and protocol. New in office and preparing to cross-train all employees in anticipation of implementation of a new computer operating system, I found both to be necessary.”

Bradford said she doesn’t think an outside trainer was necessary.

“There’s an HR department within the building,” she said. “That would be my expectation for professional development and training.”

Poshard, who had been co-treasurer of Meyer’s 2012 political campaign, was hired to conduct an audit of office procedures and protocol for $4,500. She runs Poshard Consulting, a firm specializing in fundraising, political campaigns, event planning and corporate training and development. Currently Poshard is a contractor for Nestle Purina in corporate training, according to her LinkedIn page.

Meyer said she chose both Burkey and Poshard because they were local companies that offered services “at a fraction of the prices quoted from large firms.”

“Three years later, these services have paid off,” Meyer said. “We have an office that works as a team, is efficient and customer focused, and I have successfully avoided costly lawsuits that have plagued other county offices.”

Bradford said she didn’t know why Poshard would be brought in for the audit.

“She’s supposed to be an event and campaign planner,” Bradford said. “I don’t know what her official purpose could have been other than doing something with her friend.”

Bradford said if elected, she will not award contracts to friends and political associates, which she alleged has been the practice.

“I won’t be controlled by the political party bosses who tried to keep me out of this race, or the special interests that get in the way of good policy,” Bradford said. “I’ll always do what’s in the best interests of Madison County taxpayers, regardless of the political costs.”

Meyer said the timing “and the tone” of Bradford’s allegations showed her opponent is “a self-described politician.” “I am a public servant and will continue to responsibly serve and represent the people of Madison County,” she said.

The actions of my opponent are obviously politically motivated. This is not surprising, since she is a self-described politician. I am a public servant and will continue to responsibly serve and represent the people of Madison County.

Recorder Amy Meyer

Bradford also criticized travel expenses for the recorder’s office, which she said have totaled $7,700 over three years, a significant increase over previous years.

“It’s bad enough that Amy Meyer chooses to practice law at the expense of Madison County’s taxpayers while they pay her over $100,000 and benefits to serve as recorder, but it is unconscionable that she would spend taxpayers’ money in such an irresponsible manner,” Bradford said.

Meyer said that prior county recorders did not seek continuing education, and that her office is within budget, returning money to the county at the end of the year.

“From nothing to something is an increase,” she said. “When taking office, I pledged to bring our office to a high standard in recording practices. Unlike my predecessors, I have participated in statewide recorder conventions to gain understanding of my field and office, and of late, have spoken at these same conventions regarding the standard-setting practices I have implemented in our office.”

Bradford said when she clerked in the office under former recorder Dan Donohoo, he didn’t travel.

“He never needed to travel anywhere,” she said. “Vendors came to the office to let Donohoo know about upcoming improvements… If she’s going to conventions, that’s something she chose to do, not out of necessity.”

Meyer also disputes Bradford’s allegations about her law practice interfering with county business.

“My opponent's allegation that I am working as an attorney is a vast mischaracterization, and an exploitation of the few minors and disabled people with whom I remain as their court-appointed guardian,” Meyer said. “Her lack of experience as an attorney, and willingness to say anything to try to win, is evident.”