I’m sure you’ve taken note of the part three title change! It’s the result of one of my favorite readers expressing his appreciation that “someone is watching the sausage making that is our politics around us!” I liked that abjectly apt metaphor so much I applied it here!
And while I certainly appreciate that compliment, and I enjoy sharing my unique local government insights, the sad truth is, these are consistently my least popular pieces. I’m sure it’s a combination of watching-paint-dry excitement and the fact that folks would rather howl about their scurrilous local elected officials than understand the process.
Meanwhile, in part one we discussed the inevitabilities that occur when mayors, chairmen, and village presidents move into their second term. That conversation included the five categories board members/city councilmen/trustees tend to fall into as the proceedings start to become more contentious.
Part two presented a perfect example of how that dynamic plays out in the form of the “Kane Mutiny” which saw our Board rise up and demand the coronavirus relief fund distribution process be handed over to them.
Today, we’re gonna cover how the strange, and frequently overlapping, supervisory roles of the “followers” and the “leader” can lead to all sorts of friction.
You see, most people don’t understand that, aside from setting the main meeting agenda, the leader has no real power. With a few notable exceptions like the City of Elgin, leaders don’t get to vote on anything unless the followers’ vote is deadlocked.
So, when it comes to supervising high level municipal/county staff and department heads, technically, the leader can only do so with the advice and consent of the followers.
But it rarely works out that way because “followers” like aldermen are eminently part-time propositions, while leaders are expected to put much more effort into the gig. That means the leader generally plays the direct supervising role by default, with the followers simply going along for the ride.
And that dynamic tends to work quite well until the second half of the leader’s second term when the previously described growing friction becomes so great that the followers begin to demand their supervisory rights, which throws six years of reasonable cooperation directly into the crapper.
That’s exactly the case with Chairman Chris Lauzen, those fun-loving ADHD County Board members, and the Kane County Workforce Development Board.
But before we continue, since I have not delved into this iteration of the KCWDB, I won’t be casting any personal aspersions on that group. We’ll only consider the Chairman’s issues with WDB Director Scott Berger.
For background purposes, it’s also important to note that, particularly under former Chairman Karen McConnaughay, the WDB became the perfect patronage receptacle for all manner of questionable crony hires. So, watching Chairman Lauzen shine a light on that typically dark area doesn’t bother me at all.
But when the Chairman asked why the WDB assistant director was allowed to work from Minnesota and why Berger hadn’t scheduled a required compliance meeting since May of 2019, normally reasonable board members John Hoscheit and John Martin dashed off a dire missive explaining how Lauzen was overstepping his statutory powers and he should back off forthwith!
BTW, for some absurd reason, local governing bodies just love to send each other scathing letters such that it begs for some sort of hilarious Monty Python send up. Of course, that letter was sent to every County Board member, as well as State’s Attorney Joe McMahon, just for good making-it-much-worse measure.
While Hoscheit and Martin were absolutely correct about the Board, and not the Chairman, being responsible for supervising the WDB, my response to that letter would’ve been, “Well then, bleepin’ supervise them!” Though that would certainly be a first, because, in 14-plus years of covering that gaggle, I’ve never seen ‘em successfully supervise something as simple as a backyard pool party.
Yes! I, as a taxpayer take issue with $125,000 a year employee (salary and benefits) working from two states away. I understand working remotely from Elgin in the plague era, but how does one successfully “assistant direct” from 400 miles away? It can’t be done.
As far as the lack of compliance meetings go, considering the WDB is a vastly federally funded entity, that lapse will eventually come back to bite Kane County is the ass. It may take awhile for the feds to finally catch up, but when they do, they better not find any fiscal surprise or it won’t be pretty.
So, because the board members – and most “followers” – consistently fail to supervise, the Chairman stepped in to supervise, and then he was excoriated for supervising by a couple of suddenly self-righteous board members. Why does the term “Catch-22” suddenly come to mind?
I’m really starting to think Yossarian got it right (look it up)!
And we’re not talking about a poorly paid group of village trustees here, either. Kane County Board members make 25 grand a year and they get a Cadillac benefits package on top of that (not everyone takes the benefits) for a “job” that, for at least half of them, takes no more than six hours a month.
In conclusion (finally, right?), borne of what I call “second-term-itis” brought on by the eminently thin-skinned followers who fervently believe they should be the leader, and now taking every perceived leader slight as a mortal wound, at that point, local governing bodies tend to descend into a cat herding endeavor without nearly enough litter boxes to deal with the increasing manure problem.
And with a new Chairman coming in after November, the process will start all over again. To quote that great philosopher David Byrne, “Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it EVER was!”