You don’t know Jack!
I never thought the day would come when I felt sorry for former Kane County Director of Elections, Suzanne Fahenestock. But today is, indeed, that day. And this surprises me because anyone who’s ever met Suzanne quickly realizes she’s not the kind of person who tends to generate sympathy.
But here we are, one more time, proving that truth is far stranger than fiction. Perhaps it truly is wise to never say never.
To fill in the blanks, Ms. Fahnestock abruptly resigned this week, ending her seven-year tenure and casting the Kane County Clerk’s office adrift a scant six months before the biggest election of our lifetime. When you consider Clerk Cunningham’s already abysmal election day track record, the phrase “impending nightmare” would not be inappropriate.
So here’s what happened and here’s what’s about to happen.
Cunningham’s managerial style is best described as divide and conquer. He loves to pit his top staffers against each other in an effort to get them to turn on each other. Ironically, the only one in the entire office who actually respected Jack, was Suzanne. The rest of his employees consider him a complete laughingstock.
A huge part of that managerial strategy is that Cunningham always has a golden boy and a punching bag. Those roles can be fluid, but typically, once you become the punching bag, your time is at hand. During my days with the County, former Chief Deputy Stan Bond happened to be the object of Jack’s derision.
In this particular instance, Cunningham created an “Inspector” position, immediately setting this new hire on Ms. Fahnestock, which immediately thrust her into the position of punching bag. After the “Inspector” was allowed to overrule Suzanne on a number of consecutive occasions, she simply walked out that Building B front door with no notice.
Jack tends to have that kind of effect on people.
The truly sad thing is, like I said before, Suzanne was the only one who actually respected Jack to the point where she was willing to defend him to her dying breath. So, to quote Donald Trump, whatever transpired between them had to be “huge.”
As far as what happens next, Elections second-in-command Ray Esquivel, adequate at his appointed task, couldn’t run an election on his best day. If you think DuPage and McHenry Counties were bad this year, just wait!
Then, immediately after declaring he’d be the taxpayers’ savior by not replacing Fahnestock, Cunningham said he’d hire consultants to run the election instead, which would cost at least four times as much.
Given Jack’s capacity to immediately alienate anyone whom he perceives to be smarter than he is – a very long list – the consultant possibility will also crash and burn.
But here’s the real problem. Jack repeatedly told me the reason he hired Suzanne was because her husband happens to be Kane County IT Director Roger Fahnestock – the most talented IT Director I’ve ever come across. It’s not that Suzanne couldn’t do the job, but her previous position was writing grants for former Sheriff Pat Perez. She had no election experience.
Prior to her hire, the IT department ignored the Clerk’s office, once again, because of Jack’s vast capacity to lose friends and fail to influence people. After Suzanne’s hire, the IT department bent over backwards to support the Clerk, including, but not nearly limited to, dedicating two crack staffers to the election effort for one solid week.
And that ain’t gonna happen anymore.
So what we have here is an unqualified employee and/or some mediocre consultants trying to run a record turnout election with a no-clue County Clerk who won’t be getting much help from the IT department.
Like my AP history teacher always said after asking me a question as I was snoozing at my desk, “Listen up class, this is going to be good.”