Board says Spitzbart can stay

By NATE LEGUE nlegue@nwherald.com

WOODSTOCK - Embattled Animal Control veteran Norma Spitzbart can keep a job with the McHenry County Health Department, just not at the animal shelter, the board of health ruled Thursday.

After nearly 90 minutes of deliberating in a closed-door meeting called to decide Spitzbart's fate, the board voted unanimously to offer her another non-management position elsewhere in the health department.

"Hopefully, this is the first of many steps in the right direction to better animal control," said Ed Varga, health board member.

Spitzbart did not attend the meeting and could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

Last month, Spitzbart stepped down from her post as animal control supervisor amid revelations that shelter workers were recording customers covertly.

But as a condition of her resignation, she was promised a newly created animal control job by the health board and given a pay cut that dropped her annual salary from around $58,000 to under $37,000.

On Monday, the county board committee in charge of personnel refused to recommend funding for the new position, forcing the independent health board to come up with another alternative.

"It was in the best interest of the [animal control] facility to allow Norma to utilize her skills in another area," said Tracey Odishoo, health board president.

Spitzbart's new job offer likely will be an open clerical position in the environmental health division, which enforces rules on water quality, restaurant inspections and garbage disposal. If accepted, the job will include another dock in wages below her current $18.87-an-hour position.

The hourly pay will be in the middle of the county-mandated range for the clerical job, which is between $11.24 and $17.14, Public Health Administrator Pat McNulty said.

If Spitzbart refuses the offer, she will be let go, Varga said.

Despite 31 years working for animal control, Spitzbart is not old enough to take early retirement, which the county's pension system allows after age 55.

Richard Klasen, R-Marengo, a county board member who frequently has called for Spitzbart's termination, said he accepted the health board's decision to move her out of the troubled division.

"I'm not really satisfied, but it's something I can live with," Klasen said.

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