Republican Winnebago County Board Chairman candidate Frank Haney expressed his disapproval of a plan to bring back the board’s Executive Committee tonight.
“This is a dishonest, disingenuous, power grab,” he said. “The last time government changed this much in Winnebago County, it was done via referendum. The people chose. Now [a select few are] perverting the process.”
County Board member John Guevara (R-19th) is spearheading the proposal. He says the committee would provide oversight of the County Board, including the Chairman, increasing accountability and transparency.
“The current ordinances give all the power to the chairman, and offer no recourse for the board,” said Guevara. “This was an opportunity to at least slow things down and provide the board with some recourse.”
This comes after the county accidentally installed the wrong Microsoft software on its computers – costing taxpayers more than $280,000 – and an FBI investigation into the Chairman’s Office; the chairman himself, Scott Christiansen, using a spa in his home that was paid for by county dollars.
In addition, purchasing director, Sally Claasen, pled guilty in June to embezzling more than $450,000. Court documents reveal she used some of the money for personal vacations and home remodeling projects.
“You’ve seen what’s happened in the last year here with Winnebago County,” said County Board Member Eli Nicolosi. “We’ve got to make it stop, we’ve got to say ‘Hey, let’s pump the brakes. Let’s figure out a system, a new method, to make sure that we’re doing it. And what’s ironic is the new method is the old method.”
The first draft of the proposal, to install the oversight committee, comes just months before the election for County Board Chairman. Haney says he believes the entire move is an attempt to take power from future board members and the future chairman.
“This is a big job, you need to be able to make changes when you get in there, not have your hands tied because a very select number of people want to grab power when they think nobody’s looking,” said Haney.
Nicolosi says claims of a power grab are misguided, and he and the other board members are simply trying to do what’s best for the county.
Guevara says he is already discussing changes that need to be made to the first draft of the proposal.