Reporter's Notebook: Executive Privilege


In this business, it's hard to condense something as deep as a controversial political issue into a 20-inch story.

I'm talking about Wednesday night's forum on the county executive referendum, which I wrote up for today's paper. I try to err in news stories on the side of sticking with the issues to help voters make informed decisions, and leave the side issues and the barbs for another time.

I won't rehash what a county executive form of government is, but I wrote a comprehensive article on it that you can download here. Yes, it's in our pay archives, but a man's gotta eat.

As we work on posting the video of last night's debate between pro-executive state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, and anti-executive Rep. Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, I'll delve into some observations from the forum, sponsored by Patriots United.

• IS IT JOHN GALT?– Just who are the McHenry County Republicans for Lower Taxes? Tryon said he, and party attorneys, want to know.

The group has been putting up signs throughout the county urging people to vote yes. But they haven't reported yet with the Illinois State Board of Elections, likely because the group has stayed under the $3,000 reporting threshold.

"I'm the McHenry County Republican Party Chairman, and I have no idea what [that group] is," Tryon said.

Tryon told Franks that the GOP has a team of attorneys eager to talk with the group if they reach that reporting threshold because the phrase "McHenry County Republicans" is "not their name to use."

• GLASS HOUSES – I hope this interest in intellectual property from the county GOP means that the party and its members will end the actionable practice of posting our stories up wholesale on its website without permission.

If the GOP ever calls in those attorneys, I urge them to take a moment to ask about something called Fair Use law.

And for the record, you don't meet Fair Use protection by putting the original link at the bottom of the story you reprint in its entirety without permission. That's about as legal as me stealing a new car but keeping the plastic license plate holder from the dealership.

• TRANSPARENCY COMPARISON – While the identity of the McHenry County Republicans for Lower Taxes group is a mystery, the identity of the anti-executive group Citizens for No County Czar is not.

The group has openly reported its donations and leadership to the Illinois State Board of Elections. Tryon stated in the name of disclosure at Wednesday's forum that he has donated to it.

Donors also include County Board Chairman Ken Koehler and his McHenry County Chairman's Circle, and the Board of Directors consists of attorneys Thomas Zanck and Mark Gummerson, and former County Board member and Upper Illinois River Valley Development Authority member Blake Hobson.

Support for the executive referendum is also coming from Supporters of Jack Franks – the group's records can be found on file here.

• JUST BABES IN THE WOODS – Opponents of the executive form have an argument that the new office, and the money that it would cost to run for it, could open up county government to special interests, quid pro quo and influence peddling.

But they have absolutely no argument, no ground to stand on whatsoever, when they keep implying that it's not happening now – that this new office if approved will spill the toxic waste of Illinois government into the pristine pond of county government.

Balderdash. Horse hockey. Baloney. Poppycock. We had more appropriate words in the Army, but I'll get fired if I print any of those.

If anyone who reads this honestly believes that board members cast their votes for the chairmanship on pure selflessness – that committee chairmanships or getting their initiatives pushed through don't enter the equation – I have a great development proposal at Love Canal to sell you.

So on behalf of my readers, I'll say it yet again, slower and clearer this time, to the officials who keep pushing this line.

You're. Not. Fooling. Anyone.

Least. Of. All. Me.

• EXECUTIVE TRYON? – I saw it coming that Franks would rule out running for the office is is trying to create. He's said it to me on the record, and stated the same at least twice to his audience.

I think the question that was asked to them both was tailored for Franks – after all, it's a very legitimate thing to ask him or any other official seeking to create a new elected office or government position.

I did not see it coming that Tryon, former McHenry County Board chairman, would not rule it out himself.

Tryon prefaced his answer by saying that he was working to defeat the referendum so the office never gets created in the first place. But he then said he could not rule out a run.

Besides saying that coming back to run a county would have something of an appeal to him, Tryon added that he would have a real concern – i.e. consider a run – "if the wrong person emerges as a candidate."

If Tryon does run, he secured his first vote on stage.

"I'd vote for you, Mike," Franks said. "I think you'd do a good job."

Senior Writer Kevin Craver can be reached at


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