Judge certifies county executive referendum
WOODSTOCK – McHenry County's chief judge certified a binding referendum to ask voters to change county government to an executive form.
Judge Michael Sullivan's ruling Wednesday officially puts the referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot. Under an executive form of government, voters still elect their county board representatives by district, but also elect an executive at large to run the county's day-to-day operations.
State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, said he filed the petition after repeated unsuccessful efforts to persuade the McHenry County Board to allow the chairman to be elected by the people, rather than a majority of the 24-member board.
Sullivan's ruling came the day before a County Board special meeting to discuss putting a referendum of their own on the ballot to do just that.
"This is exactly what I asked them to do over a year and a half ago, and they refused," Franks said. "It is something they should have done then, on their own, without having to go to referendum."
While a majority of board members in the past have opposed leaving the chairmanship up to the voters, many seem to have changed their minds because they find the idea more palatable than creating a county executive.
An executive wields significant power, voting only to break ties, but having veto power over board legislation. The executive also is responsible for preparing the county budget, recommending appointments of department heads, and entering intergovernmental agreements.
Franks said Wednesday that he would be willing to work with the board should they vote to put a referendum on the ballot allowing for countywide election of the chairman. In the event that both referendums win, state law gives precedence to the executive form of government.
Franks' petition had more than 1,500 signatures, three times the minimum of 500 required.
Will County is the only Illinois county with an executive. Voters in 1988 approved the executive form without home rule – Franks' referendum likewise does not include giving the county home rule power.
Several board members have accused Franks of wanting to create the executive position so he could run for it himself in 2014. Franks stated Wednesday that he has no intention of running for either the office of executive or county board chairman.
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