How to destroy your budget (and political career) in less than a month!

I suppose the best thing you can say about Kane County Coroner Rob Russell is he waited almost two years before foisting his particular brand of political preposterousness on the rest of us. Ah! But what would you expect from the male version of Paris Hilton?

Mark my words, unless the local GOP fails to come up with a reasonable alternative, given his mendacious budgetary ways and penchant for pursuing the press, in the immortal words of Glenn Frey, he’s “already gone!”

Meanwhile, I can’t tell you how much fun it is to watch your Cook County friends sneer as they derisively ask, “Ain’t Kane County the place where bodies melt and evidence was destroyed because the Coroner couldn’t label a light switch?”

And all you can do is sigh, hang your head, walk away, and pray for a story on someone out here who actually meaning to be corrupt.

But I digress! Because just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it does! There’s a new Sheriff in town and he’s intent on shattering the Coroner’s running it onto the reef record. In what has to be a Kane County first, less than 30 days after taking the reins, Don Kramer dug himself a $1.4 million, or 10 percent of his corrections budget, hole.

kramerAnd that, my friends, takes real skill.

You see, going back to the previous chairman, Kane County has enjoyed a mutually beneficial deal housing Chicago-based U. S. Marshal inmates awaiting trial. Those fine federal folks turned to us because we’re close, their jail is already at capacity, and a new facility would be prohibitively expensive.

So Kane County has been getting $88 a day per head to house approximately 80 inmates who, in turn, cost the County $62 per day. No matter how you slice it, and even if you include the associated $100,000 in annual overtime and transportation expenses, it still comes out to $2.5 million 2015 dollars for which the taxpayers are no longer on the hook. Over the course of four years…

But completely failing to understand the ramifications of reducing revenue, in one of his very first acts as Sheriff, Don Kramer decided to eliminate that contract without discussing it with the Board, the Judicial and Public Safety Committee, or the Chairman. Not to mention the Sheriff doesn’t have the right to unilaterally cancel an intergovernmental agreement signed by the Chairman.

Thankfully, some proactive Building A folks discovered this dastardly dismantling before every last federal inmate was “returned,” but not before 43 of ‘em were sent down to Kankakee. Now it’s those county officials who are counting all those extra dollars.

So as you might imagine, our new sheriff was the star of last week’s (1/15) Public Safety Committee meeting, but when consistently confronted with this gaping fiscal hole, all Kramer did was repeat two patently absurd statements: “It’s your money,” and “I will live within the budget you gave me.”

As one county board member aptly put it, “It would appear that the Sheriff doesn’t understand that budgets have a revenue side.” Somehow, in his mind, this revenue loss should have absolutely no bearing on his spendin’ money.

Despite this bizarre reticence, the committee persisted in pointing out that, unless he fixes this, the Sheriff is officially $1.4 million in the red which needs to be offset by the appropriate cuts. Sadly, by the end of the meeting, none of them were sure Sheriff Kramer could handle simple subtraction.

And if you really think about those two statements, what the Sheriff was really saying was, “Bleep you taxpayer! If the County has to raise the levy to recover this revenue, it’s not my problem!” Now, there’s a team player for you! So what if the State’s Attorney, the Circuit Clerk,or the Judges have to take the hit.

Once the Sheriff survived the initial committee onslaught and had time to gather his wits – or what was left of them – he suddenly blamed this unfortunate turn of events on the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act), an abundance of workman’s comp cases, and then he declared that he wouldn’t bring those inmates back until he gets 10 new hires – at a total taxpayer cost of around $1 million – because the jail was “unsafe!”

Ain’t it amazing how much can happen in one short month?

Considering how accessible the former Sheriff is (his cell phone hasn’t changed), I’m not entirely sure why reporters failed to directly challenge those assertions. But fear not dear reader, because I called the recently retired Pat Perez to ask him the following:

Since it opened in 2008, did you or your command staff ever feel the new jail was unsafe?

“No. If the safety of the officers and inmates was ever in question, it would have been revealed by the IDOC and Marshals inspections that occur every year. The Marshals never would’ve approved the contract if safety or staffing was an issue.”

Since 2008, how many corrections officers have been attacked:

“Virtually none. Maybe one or two, but that has never been an issue with this jail.”

Did the number of FMLA and workman’s comp cases see a dramatic increase at the end of your term?

“No! Since it’s been less than two months since I left office, it’s very likely that those FMLA and Worker’s Compensation cases are the same ones when I was there.

Did you ever feel like the U. S. Marshals contract was an unfair burden on the jail, the staff, or administrators.

“No. We had a great relationship with the Marshals and it worked out very well for both sides.”

As Judiciary Committee Chair Cristina Castro noted, the committee will now go to the Human Resources Department to determine if there has been a recent significant uptick in absent jail employees.

So now that we’ve come to the conclusion that the Sheriff seems to be making it up as he goes along, what’s that real reason for this incomprehensible action? I thought you’d never ask!

More than one source, dismayed by the new Sheriff’s destructive wake, told me that Kramer, who’s never been shy about blurting out whatever’s on his mind, has basically been saying, “I’m going to get rid of every last vestige of Pat Perez and it starts with the Marshals’ contract.”

After vowing there would be “no quick changes,” in his blind determination to avenge all sorts of perceived personal wrongs, Sheriff Kramer made an ill-conceived move without considering the consequences for one short second. This has nothing to do with staffing levels, overtime, or jail safety and everything to do with the Sheriff satisfying his ego whatever that cost may be.

In just 30 days, Sheriff Kramer has managed to alienate the Board and the Chairman, destroy staff morale, and “inadvertently” open up a $1.4 million budget deficit while taking no responsibility for his decision. And we still have 47 more months of him to go!

God help the Kane County taxpayer.

After that infamous committee meeting, a board member asked me, “Who’s the happiest man in Kane County.” When I couldn’t come up with a quick answer, he responded, “Rob Russell! Suddenly a $123,000 budget gap doesn’t seem so bad.”

One thought on “How to destroy your budget (and political career) in less than a month!

  1. Pingback: There is no other side to this story! | The First Ward

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