County Board reviews proposed rule changes

WOODSTOCK – Timing is everything – just ask the McHenry County Board members who support moving their first meeting of the month to evenings to “increase public participation.”

When it was discussed Tuesday morning as part of proposed changes to board rules, more than 100 residents were in the audience to discuss issues from state budget cuts to a controversial road widening project.

The change, rejected in the past, likely is to be rejected again.

“As long as I’ve been on the board, I’ve never had anybody come up to me and say that [a morning meeting] is a problem,” board member Peter Merkel, R-McHenry, said.

The change is one of about 20 proposed to the board rules, which are reviewed and revised after each November election by the board’s Management Services Committee.

Board members made it through about half of them in a 45-minute committee of the whole before their regular meeting.

One of the more controversial proposals is a recommendation that the board chairman and vice-chairman serve no more than three consecutive terms.

The county has no legal authority to impose term limits, which would have to come through a voter referendum.

“This gives us the opportunity ... to bring new blood into the operation, and it’s simply a suggestion, not a mandate,” member Ersel Schuster, R-Woodstock, said.

Opponents of the idea, such as Anna May Miller, R-Cary, and Bob Bless, R-Fox River Grove, responded that a rule book is no place for suggestions.

“We don’t call them the County Board recommendations. We call them the County Board rules,” Miller said.

Schuster’s committee has explored pursuing term limits via referendum, following some criticism from a few board members after the board last December re-elected Ken Koehler, R-Crystal Lake, to his fourth two-year term.

Some of the proposed changes codify routine practices, such as requiring that board members with conflicts of interest publicly state that they cannot discuss or vote on those matters.

Others changes are housekeeping, such as the addition of the new Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee.

Tuesday’s discussion ended with moving the first meeting of the month from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., like the board’s second monthly meeting.

Members who favored the idea, such as Sandra Fay Salgado, R-McHenry, were outnumbered by opponents.

Members John Hammerand, R-Wonder Lake, and Diane Evertsen, R-Harvard, said the morning meeting gives stay-at-home parents and people who work non-traditional hours access to government.

Members voted to push back a vote on the rule changes until at least March 15, and likely will schedule another committee of the whole to finish their review.

Proposed rule changes

A McHenry County Board committee has recommended several changes to the board’s rules, which include:

• Recommending that the board chairman and vice-chairman serve no more than three consecutive terms, and forbidding the vice-chairman from serving as chairman of a standing committee.

• Mandating that board members with conflicts of interest on issues formally state that they must abstain from voting.

• Amending language so that board members “may,” rather than “shall,” get mileage reimbursement. Another change clarifies who approves expenses for board members and the chairman.

• Moving the first full board meeting of each month from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. like the board’s second meeting of the month.

• Adding a 30-minute public comment time to the end of the meeting as well as the beginning.

• Requiring that the chairman keep members informed of all “formal, directive-related” communications with other governmental and non-governmental entities.

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