Of all the stratagems, knowing when to quit is the best. – Chinese proverb
The is the second time in a month I’ve approached the keyboard with heavy hands. Like it was when The First Ward broke the Tom Hartwell story, I take no joy in what I’m about to report. But being a state’s attorney, judge, or sheriff, or journalist demands a high standard which means sparing no one.
The bottom line is that Kane County Treasurer Chris Lauzen just made a serious mistake that must be reported.
It’s common knowledge that Lauzen and Carrollyn Brady, the 17-year Director of Financial Operations he inherited from Dave Rickert, parted ways on May 1 to the tune of a $46,000 severance agreement. The deal, brokered by State’s Attorney Jamie Mosser, was finalized on April 26.
Lauzen told the local press that:
Carrollyn and I have voluntarily, mutually, and amicably agreed to go our separate ways in a manner recommended by our highly-competent (Sic) Kane County States Attorney Jamie Mosser. Seventeen years of dedicated continuous service to the County is a long time and should be valued. On behalf of Kane County, we wish Carrollyn success in her future endeavors.
That all sounds well and good, but the truth is their parting was anything but “amicable.”
The animosity between the two started before Lauzen took office when he made the foolish mistake of making Brady’s firing a central tenet of his Treasurer campaign message. He said he didn’t approve of the way she was investing county funds, and as has become too typical of the Treasurer, he became almost as obsessive about it as Captain Ahab’s single-minded pursuit of an albino whale.
All potential Shakman decree repercussions notwithstanding, that political declaration made it that much more difficult for Lauzen to replace Brady. And, truth be told, within the bounds of reason, there’s nothing wrong with a newly elected official moving to install his or her hand-picked office managers.
But because he now couldn’t or didn’t replace her, given his persistent difficulties with women in positions of power under him, the friction between Lauzen and Brady only got worse. It’s not that the Treasurer’s a misogynist, as many of his detractors have labeled him, it’s that he was raised at a time when women had very different societal roles, and while most of us aspire to evolving past that upbringing, some folks will be eternally bound by it.
I’ve also discovered that, unless we consistently work to master the worst aspects of our character, those faults tend to develop an increasingly irresistible hold on us as we age. To wit, Lauzen has never been easy to deal with, but he’s become so difficult lately that we’ve only spoken twice in the last year.
I’m not sure exactly when the argument occurred, but after the tension between the two hit the boiling point, it devolved into a loud in-office altercation in which Lauzen made physical contact with Brady. The whole thing was captured by the office video cameras, too.
Three separate sources told me that Lauzen “pushed her,” but to be fair, Brady’s attorney John Hoscheit wrote that he simply “made contact” with her in a letter to Kane County human resources executive director Jamie Lobrillo. And while any physical contact with an employee is NEVER acceptable, it’s particularly egregious when it’s a female employee on the receiving end.
It’s also important to note that, had the contact been anything more than mild, Brady would likely have settled for a lot more than 50 grand.
I will reserve final judgement until the County responds to my FOIA request for that video footage. But even if it turns out to be the most benign contact, this entire scenario is utterly unacceptable on the part of a savvy 30-plus year elected official for the following reasons:
1. Once Lauzen went after Brady during his campaign, it activated the Shakman Decree which forbids politically based hiring and firing. If you recall, it was that 1983 ruling that put the final nail in the Chicago Machine’s coffin.
2. Going after an employee in an office you purport to be able to successfully run makes it that much more difficult to successfully run it. What kind of message does that kind of thing send the rest of the staff? Every countywide elected official’s performance is directly tied to the competence, morale, and general wellbeing of their staff, so why create friction before you even walk through the door?
3. It’s never good form to get into a loud argument with a high-lever staffer for any boss or manager in the public or private sector. It destroys the boss’s reputation, it demoralizes the rest of the staff, and it sets a really bad precedent. If you have an issue with an employee, it should be taken up behind closed doors in as calm a manner as possible.
4. Per our previous stipulation, it’s never OK to as much as touch an employee without their explicit permission. When Elgin city manager Rick Kozal “playfully” strangled a staffer in 2018 I wrote that he should be fired and he should’ve been.
5. When word of the incident gets out – and it always gets out – the public will automatically assume the altercation was at least twice as bad as it really was, especially when you’ve earned a reputation for being difficult to deal with.
After a number of attempts to reach him, the Treasurer did directly respond to me and he didn’t deny making contact with Brady. But he was insistent that I put off publishing this column until he and a third-party mediator could present the video in a neutral location. Lauzen’s absurd notion was, if The First Ward didn’t report it, word wouldn’t get out. I tried to tell him that ship had already sailed because the entire county board was already taking about it, but as usual, he wouldn’t listen.
I also have to say that I didn’t take kindly to being treated like an inept teenager who needs to be told what they think about a videotaped event. I’ve clearly earned the right to make up my own mind. This bizarrely untenable request is just another example of Lauzen’s overriding need to control everything and everyone in his environment.
Another inside source told me that Lauzen was considering hiring one of his son’s to take Brady’s place which, if true, shows just how much he’s sliding. It would be particularly ironic because he’s railed against that kind of nepotism his entire political career.
Though he’ll never consider the possibility, even if there’s nothing on the video, I’m calling on the Treasurer to resign because he’ll never be able to recover from these irrational self-inflicted wounds. Any ongoing efforts to manage that office will only serve to further damage an enterprise that’s always enjoyed a reputation for competence and doing a good job.
I know how difficult it is for celebrities, professional athletes, and elected officials to know when it’s time to walk away. The attention that comes with those lofty positions can become intoxicating and addictive. But those who fail to see that distinction invariably wind up tarnishing what would’ve been a once-reasonable or even stellar legacy.
Take a hint from a friend, Chris. It’s time to walk away.
Given the time and effort I put into this special First Ward report, it will likely supplant next Tuesday’s column. That means we’ll continue the conversation on Thursday.
4 thoughts on “This time, the Treasurer went too far!”
Seems that it was Brady that needed to go, she wanted to continue the old policies rather than change.It is so hard to fire any government employee.
Whether she need to go or not isn’t the issue. Like I said in the piece, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a newly elected official inserting their people in those high-level office positions on day one. But you don’t attack them during the campaign because it’s really bad form and it makes it much more difficult to fire them.
Chris made his bed and now he has to lie in it.
I see your buddy McMahon got fired so I am looking forward to your next column. But it will be suspended this week, correct not supplanted.
Yes! Tim got rid of Joe even before I entered the fray. And what I essentially meant was I wrote and posted tomorrow’s column last Friday.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever catch up on my other stuff, but I’m making a valiant effort.