MCC takes president's contract talks off Tuesday's agenda

CRYSTAL LAKE – McHenry County College trustees removed an agenda item amid criticism that trustees were trying to push through an extension of the president's employment with a lame duck board.

Trustee Cynthia Kisser asked the trustees to push a vote on President Vicky Smith's contract until the next board meeting April 25.

The board is considering extending the president's employment agreement by a year to June 2015. Smith's contract stipulates that a decision must be made by June 15.

Critics, who asked that the decision be made by three newly-elected trustees, might not be pacified by tabling the matter because the vote will still come before outgoing board members. There are three meetings April 25 – the final meeting of the outgoing trustees, a largely ceremonial meeting to swear in new members and elect officers, and the first meeting of the new board.

The item can't be put on the agenda of the new board because only the chairperson can set agenda items. The chairperson won't be decided until after the new board is sworn in, so that wouldn't satisfy the 48-hour advance notice required by the Open Meetings Act.

Tuesday's special meeting was called for emergency repairs to the college's storm and sanitary pipes but also included an action item on Smith's employment contract.

"I didn't think it was going to cause a problem," Chairwoman Mary Miller said of putting the president's employment fate on the special meeting agenda. "It was surprising to me that it was taken that way."

Still, Miller believes that a vote to extend Smith's contract is in the purview of those who evaluated the president, in other words the sitting board members.

"To me, it's the responsibility of the current board because we've worked with her for an entire year, and we've already performed her evaluation," Miller said.

Kisser and Trustee Linda Liddell agreed. Liddell said Smith's contract doesn't allow enough time for the elected board members to conduct an evaluation of the president. In the future, she'd like to see the contract amended so the issue doesn't come up every election cycle.

But not everyone agreed with the board. Almost 10 people implored the trustees to hold off, including newly-elected board members.

"To me, there seems to be ample time to bring the three new board members up to speed to make an informed decision," said Chris Jenner, who won an MCC seat last week. "I urge [you] not to take action on Dr. Smith's contract extension until the new board is seated."

Jenner, Tom Wilbeck and Molly Walsh also were elected.

A satellite overflow room was set up for the public to watch a live broadcast of the meeting, after the board room quickly filled.

Others who spoke said it undermines the will of the voters who last week ousted incumbents Carol Larson and Barbara Walter. Dennis Adams did not seek re-election.

"A consideration to extend the president's contract is anti-democratic and in effect subverts the will of the community who have spoken," said Jim Gould, an MCC instructor.

(Note to readers: This story was updated to correct a factual error.)

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