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Kane Board Chair To Seek Counsel In Pay Raise Lawsuit

An effort to retroactively approve executive pay raises is stalled as Kane Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay announces she's getting legal representation.

The Kane County Board was to vote Tuesday to retroactively approve department pay raises given by County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay three years ago, but the issue was pulled from the agenda at the last minute to be discussed in executive session. 

That's when McConnaughay walked out of the meeting and announced she will "vigorously defend against a politically-motivated lawsuit over how the county set salaries for employees."

The lawsuit was filed by McConnaughay's former political opponent, James MacRunnels, claiming the board chairman violated state statutes by issuing the raises without the consent of the full County Board. 

In a press release issued by the chairman's office, McConnaughay states that she strives for transparency in government, but it was decided "it would be in the best interests of the taxpayers to have this matter clarified once and for all." 

"She literally walked out on the board," MacRunnels said. "She had a board meeting to run. She didn't even take the time to do her job, that we (taxpayers) pay her handsomely for."

MacRunnels' original suit was dismissed, but an appellate court reinstated the case. The next court date is Monday, July 16, and MacRunnels said his attorney, William King of Aurora, will ask the judge for a change of venue to "anywhere but Kendall and Kane" counties, where he believes the case won't get a fair hearing. 

Board member Mike Donahue, District 11, said the chairman's decision to leave the meeting was appropriate given the change in circumstances. 

"Because she's represented by her own special counsel, she would not be participating in the discussion at County Board level," Donahue said. 

Several board members confirmed that it is the opinion of the Kane County State's Attorney's Office. County Board members are also defendants in this suit, by virtue of the allegations that involve the County Board, and since the state's attorney appointed special counsel to represent her, there would be a conflict of interest for that office to represent both the board and an individual member of the board. 

However, MacRunnels said the County Board is not named in this lawsuit. 

"Karen McConnaughay is named in that lawsuit, not the County Board," he said. "If (State's Attorney) Joe McMahon shows up or one of his people show up, I'm going to have my attorney ask the judge why are they here if they're not representing Ms. McConnaughay."

A press release issued by Jon Zahm, Kane County Conservative Coalition chairman, indicates the raises in question were issued in 2009, awarded to 13 executive staff members. Development Director Phil Bus saw his salary rise from $91,000 to $153,000—a 61 percent increase—that also boosted his pension from $5,000 to about $9,000 a month. 

Board Member Drew Frasz, District 26, said he has no problem with staff being compensated for expanded duties. 

"I think most of the people on the board just have a concern whether it was by design or serendipitous that Mr. Bus got this tremendous increase in responsibilities and therefore pay, when everybody knew he was probably going to be retiring in a few years," Frasz said. "It certainly gives the perception of pension-bumping."

Frasz said he believes in addition to litigation or ratifying the raises retroactively, there is a third option: settle the case. 

"There are some of us on the board that want the state's attorney to approach the plaintiff, Mr. MacRunnels, and ask him what it would take to do that," he said. 

Frasz said he did not support the chairman on the raises.

"I'm very uncomfortable. I will never vote to ratify those raises from that long ago," he said. "More importantly (is) that the appellate court has said they weren't done legally."

He said McConnaughay has made it clear to the board that she feels strongly that the raises need ratification. 

"To be honest, the way she's talked to the board in recent meetings about this, it certainly hasn't won her any additional friends or support," Frasz said. "The people on the board don't appreciate being talked down to."

Leo Kowal July 13, 2012 at 10:21 PM
Waaah Waaah! I'm all for people getting paid what they deserve, but a 61% raise? That is unprecedented!!
Betty Christensen July 13, 2012 at 10:23 PM
"Development Director Phil Bus saw his salary rise from $91,000 to $153,000—a 61 percent increase—that also boosted his pension from $5,000 to about $9,000 a month." WHAT??? Is this woman serious? What is she planning on getting the same pension since she won't be winning the election for the next position she is running for? When will the voting and non voting public get it? And when will this information be shared with the voters BEFORE the elections so people that don't have / take the time to investigate all the irresponsible deeds that the politicans are slipping through while the constituents are busy trying to support their families and keep up with the waste in government? This is an absolute outrage that every citizen should be concerned about...stop whining about what is happening in D C and worry about your own backyard...after that mess is cleaned up then go national!
Donald Ramsell July 14, 2012 at 12:17 AM
If they didn't like the job when it paid "only" $91,000 per year, they should have never applied for it. There were probably plenty of qualified people who would have gladly taken the job for that amount. I doubt that these 13 executives are irreplaceable at almost $100,000 per year. Of course retiringing with an $81,000 per year pention, even if you only got your salary raise of $151,000 for 3 months, tells it all......
Rick Anderson July 14, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Hilarious to think the public sector believes the private sector hands out raises like that. What are they smoking?
Political PR Machine July 14, 2012 at 05:30 AM
Greece, Spain, Italy, Vatican, United States... all have unsustainable deficits and deals that reward public employees better than private sector... and all are starting to crack financially. The most recent bankruptcies in municipalities in the USA is only the beginning, and it is the result of bad deals approved without scrutinization. No settlement here - let it play out in the courts and let's see what is legal and what is not.
marsha engle July 14, 2012 at 04:09 PM
2009 was the height of the recession. Pay raises? What am I missing?
Mike B. July 14, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Note that Queen Karen McConnaughay is currently running unopposed for the State Senate this November. She will leave the new County Board Chairman to deal with her unethical mess...
Mike B. July 14, 2012 at 05:23 PM
And she's running as a "Republican". Go figure...
thefunkychicken July 14, 2012 at 06:35 PM
words cannot express my distain for her.
Arthur Dietrich July 14, 2012 at 09:02 PM
She's done well financially and her buddies have done well, too. Seems she's been pulling these shenanigans for year. The taxpayers are left holding the bag and once again we are the losers. Hurray for Mr. McRunnels. Unfortunately the deck is stacked against him. Sadly, the Queen will represent us in the State Senate with all the other crooks.
Tom Brady July 18, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Karen, I've always supported you, but this time I don't!! I'm a St. Charles small businessman. My employees all took a pay cut since 2009 and have not even got a penny raise since. You're a GOP official, which also means your a CONSERVATIVE. Please start acting like one!
gina July 18, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Mr. Runnels for State Senate. You have my vote!

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