A rare incident unfolded inside McHenry County Board chambers this week.
In protest of Chairman Jack Franks’ extensive questioning of Recorder Joe Tirio during a Committee of the Whole meeting Thursday, nine County Board members walked out – a move that broke quorum and effectively derailed the Marengo Democrat.
“Jack and Joe fighting is not something I need to listen to,” said District 3 representative Joe Gottemoller, the first member to walk out. “There was no place on the agenda for us to do cross-examination of Joe Tirio.”
While Tirio and the walk-out cadre summed up Franks’ questioning as partisan political posturing, the chairman said he was trying to save the taxpayers money.
“I don’t care what party somebody is, I’m going to ask hard questions,” Franks said.
A resolution addressing the recorder’s fee schedule and growth of Tirio’s automation fund – a surplus of more than $2.5 million – had been pulled from the agenda, but the issue opened an opportunity for Franks to address Tirio:
“Can you walk us through why the automation fund is a $2.5 million surplus?”
Tirio offered a history of the fund: “I avoided spending a tremendous amount of money. I feel it’s interesting I’m getting punished somewhat publicly and creatively in the public.”
As Tirio went on, Franks interrupted: “Sir, I had a specific question. The question is: How did we get to a two-and-a-half-million-dollar surplus?”
“Spending avoidance,” Tirio said. “I could have spent $2 million easily by following the path that we had been on for that past 30 years.”
Eventually, Franks’ questioning pushed Gottemoller to stand up and leave the meeting.
John Jung followed him. Then Craig Wilcox tapped Jeff Thorsen’s arm, got up and walked out. Thorsen followed Wilcox, and Chuck Wheeler followed Thorsen. Michael Rein followed Wheeler.
Then Jim Kearns got up and left. Then Chris Christensen got up and so did Chris Spoerl.
In all, nine people walked out, leaving 12 behind. Quorum had been broken.
As Franks continued questioning Tirio, someone said: “There’s no quorum.”
Franks called for a recess.
“Just wanted to get some answers,” Franks said.
After a short recess, Franks launched back into it.
“I just had a few more questions,” Franks said.
Wilcox walked out of the room again. Thorsen followed Wilcox, and Wheeler followed Thorsen.
“Can we move on to the next thing on the agenda?” Gottemoller asked.
“Last question,” Franks said, addressing Tirio’s fee schedule and a reduction he proposed. “My question is: Are we able to go more because – there’s not an additional cost, is there when you’re doing the same type of – I presume you’re scanning and putting it into the system. Is there any difference in cost for these different documents? That’s my question.”
Tirio nodded his head, “yes.”
“Explain that,” Franks said.
“I thought that was the last question,” Gottemoller said. “He said ‘yes,’ let’s go on.”
“Can you explain that?” Franks asked.
“I’ll be happy to explain it,” Tirio said. “A lot of this could have been explained with a simple phone call if you had questions as well, but I’m sure that’s not as opportune as putting out a press release with half-truths in it, and then parading this around in front of us in public.”
Gottemoller later stepped in again: “Point of order. We’re done.”
“This is pure political [expletive],” Wheeler said.
“You’re out of order,” Franks said.
“So are you,” Wheeler said.