County Board's Tina Hill mulls options on committee assignment

County Board Chairwoman Tina Hill
County Board Chairwoman Tina Hill

McHenry County Board Chairwoman Tina Hill is “reviewing her options” regarding changing a committee assignment that she alleges constitutes a conflict of interest.

She’s had one option taken away by a legal opinion, and faces revisions to County Board rules that could make it harder for her to make the change.

Hill, R-Woodstock, backed down May 21 from a vote she sought to remove Sandra Fay Salgado, R-McHenry, from the Public Health and Human Services Committee, which has been in the spotlight for its attempts to replace members of the embattled Mental Health Board.

At that meeting, she indicated she would convene the Committee on Committees, which meets after every election to assign board members to them, to discuss the situation.

However, Assistant State’s Attorney Jana Blake Dickson has concluded that board rules allow the chairman to convene it only when the new County Board is seated.

“The next step is, I don’t know. I haven’t made up my mind,” Hill said Thursday. “Let’s see what the board says to me as far as input. And we really need to wait and see what the board does with all these changes to the rules.”

The Management Services Committee is poised to recommend changes to County Board rules, which the committee reviews after every election. And one change that could be proposed would increase the vote threshold that Hill would need to change a committee membership.

Committee member Michael Walkup, R-Crystal Lake, plans to introduce a recommendation that would require a three-fourths supermajority – or 18 of 24 votes – to move a County Board member who does not want to be reassigned. 

Salgado has fought Hill’s recommendation to move her on the grounds of her job as human resources director for Pioneer Center for Human Services, which receives Mental Health Board funding. The state’s attorney’s office has ruled in the past that Salgado’s presence on the committee does not constitute a conflict.

The proposed rule is one of several aimed at curtailing the power of the chairman, an idea that has gained ground since 2012, the last year of former Chairman Ken Koehler’s eight-year reign.

“It’s a combination of what happened under the previous chair, and that’s been sort of continued, and in some cases amplified, by the current chair,” Walkup said.

Several board members alleged that Hill’s pick to replace Salgado – freshman member Robert Martens Sr., R-Spring Grove – was inappropriate because he is the retired CEO of a now-defunct mental health agency that was closely aligned with the Mental Health Board.

Hill has insisted that choosing her own candidate and trying to move Salgado are unrelated to the efforts by a majority of the seven-member committee to put new faces on the Mental Health Board. 

“One was not tied to the other,” Hill said. “It was because of her work with Pioneer Center. It was not tied to the Mental Health Board.”

But Salgado said she believes there is a relationship to some degree. She also said it is unfair for her to be singled out, given that conflict-of-interest allegations have arisen against the chairmen of two other committees.

“[Hill’s] timing could not have been worse. Remove me on the same night of [Ferguson’s] appointment, and after all these issues?” Salgado said.

Another proposed rule change floating through the Management Services Committee would limit the chairman’s power to recommend appointees without committee approval.

Committee Chairwoman Paula Yensen, D-Lake in the Hills, said she hopes to have the recommended rules to the full County Board for a vote at its June 18 night meeting.

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