WOODSTOCK – State Rep. Steve Reick is hosting an online petition to gather signatures to fight a bill he said would increase McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks’ power.
The petition calls for McHenry County residents to join the Woodstock Republican in requesting that Gov. Bruce Rauner veto House Bill 171 – a measure applying to all Illinois counties with a population between 300,000 and 900,000 that would allow Franks and other county board chairmen to create standing committees and appoint members with the consent and approval of the county board.
“A few years ago, the voters of McHenry County voted down by a 2-to-1 margin an effort to increase the powers of the leader of the McHenry County Board,” Reick said on his website promoting the petition. “The electorate was clear in their mandate. They do not want an all-powerful County Board chairman.”
An advisory referendum went out to voters in the Nov. 6, 2012, election and asked whether residents would want to create a county executive form of government for McHenry County. Voters rejected the referendum at the polls.
To Franks, Reick’s arguments against HB 171 are political, disingenuous and “red herrings.”
“HB 171 is a good government bill codifying best practices with checks and balances,” Franks said. “His opposition is purely political to cozy up to the insiders.”
In the lead-up to the 2016 primary election, Reick’s campaign for the 63rd District focused on Franks. Reick believes Franks is part of House Speaker Michael Madigan’s status quo in Springfield, pointing to Franks’ continued willingness to elect Madigan into leadership and support of Madigan’s House rules.
Reick, a self-employed tax attorney from Woodstock, said that he wants to help shut down the status quo in Springfield. He brushed off any suggestion that his opposition to HB 171 is political.
“My objection to the bill is one of wanting to give the authority to the voters rather than have it go through Springfield,” Reick told the Northwest Herald. “My whole aim here is to allow the voters to have a say in the kind of authority they want their County Board chairman to have.”
Reick’s petition, which received 80 responses as of Thursday morning, follows on the heels of a similar petition signed by a majority of McHenry County Board members.
On Nov. 14, 20 County Board members signed a petition addressed to Rauner also asking the governor to veto the bill.
“McHenry County Board members sincerely request that you veto HB 171 and allow McHenry County to continue to operate local government based on decisions made by local voters,” the petition said. “The bill appears to have been drafted with apparently one concern, removing the authority/minimizing the role of the McHenry County Board to set/assign committee assignments, and provide that power solely to the chairman of the board.”
Board members Michele Aavang, Mike Skala, Bob Nowak and Paula Yensen did not sign the petition to veto the bill.
Before Franks won his seat as chairman, the County Board’s rule book allowed the chairman to appoint the chairman, vice chairman and members of committees with the consent and approval of the County Board.
The rules required that the chairman appoint one member from each district to each committee.
In 2014, the board changed the rules and transferred the ability to create committees to the longest-standing members of each district.
Reick blasted HB 171 on his website and even wrote a letter to Rauner on Nov. 13 asking the governor to veto it.
“This is a matter of local control,” Reick wrote. “If the authority of the County Board chairman is to be expanded, the voters of McHenry County should be the ones to do it.”
Franks said HB 171 – sponsored by state Sen. Karen McConnaughay, who served as the Kane County Board chairwoman from 2004 to 2012 – would allow him to build committees with members and leadership best suited to do a good job governing the county and serving voters.
“The bill restores long-standing best practices supported by all the local counties,” Franks said. “Reick and his ilk would rather have political insiders calling the shots and seeking to silence the voice of the voters.”
Reick contends that he’s more concerned about protecting the voice of voters.
“I just think if the people of McHenry County wanted a chairman to have circumscribed authority, they should be the ones who choose to expand that authority,” Reick said.
As of Thursday morning, the bill remained on Rauner’s desk. He has taken no action on it.