Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Referendum Looms To Change McHenry County Government
A Franks spokesman Monday said the proposed referendum was only an extension of the gadfly Democrat's recent attempts to have the McHenry County Board Chairman directly elected instead of being chosen by Board members from among their own number. However, the referendum, if approved, would actually create a completely new and more powerful office than Board Chairman.
First, though, the referendum has to go on the ballot. State law requires 500 valid signatures to do it. Chief Circuit Judge Michael Sullivan or his fellow-judge pick has to determine if Franks made the cut. FEN wasn't able to determine how many signatures are on the petitions but one estimate was "over 1,000." However, according to an informed source, Franks himself had to junk 383 signatures when he noticed the question at the top of the form was a draft version instead of the one he intended.
The referendum would, in effect, replace McHenry County's weak parliamentary-style County Board Chairman with a powerful directly-elected Chief Executive. Right now the Chairman is a "first among equals" who runs Board meetings and can put opponents on icky Board committees. The 24 Board members collectively hire the professional administrators who run the County day-to-day. Franks' proposal would create a new elected County Executive officer to single-handedly hire, albeit with Board advice and consent, or fire administrators. He'd also have veto power over Board decisions unless members could muster a 3/5 majority override.
The Home Rule part of the referendum is another obscure can of worms but it doesn't really matter since the County doesn't have it and the referendum specifically rejects it if a Chief Executive is approved.
A briefing on Illinois' County Executive Law is planned at this morning's County Board meeting but it wasn't clear Monday whether Board Chairman Ken Koehler or County Administrator Peter Austin would provide it.
In the pic: State Rep. Jack Franks collecting signatures for a County Executive referendum during last week's McHenry County Fair. (Photo provided by McHenry County Blog)