Ferguson appointed to fill vacancy on Mental Health Board

County Board Chairwoman Tina Hill
County Board Chairwoman Tina Hill

WOODSTOCK - The McHenry County Board granted Chairwoman Tina Hill one of her two requests regarding the embattled Mental Health Board.

Members voted Tuesday evening, 16-8, to appoint Cathy Ferguson, selected by Hill outside the committee process, to fill a vacancy on the Mental Health Board. But Hill, citing negative publicity, pulled from the agenda her request for a vote to replace a member of the committee in charge of filling it.

Hill wanted to remove board veteran Sandra Fay Salgado, R-McHenry, from the Public Health and Human Services Committee, alleging that her job as human resources director for an agency that receives Mental Health Board funding constituted a conflict of interest.

But Hill’s choice to replace Salgado – Robert Martens Sr. – had raised questions because he is the retired head of a collapsed social service agency that was closely aligned with the Mental Health Board, which spent almost $1.8 million in an unsuccessful bid to save it.

"No one was feeling particularly comfortable with the switch of Sandy Salgado and Bob Martens right now," Hill said before the meeting. "Timing is everything, and the perception was that this was tied to [the] Cathy Ferguson [appointment], and that couldn't be further from the truth."

Critics have alleged in recent years that the Mental Health Board has become a bureaucracy that spends too much of its property-tax revenue on administration and overhead that it should instead disburse to agencies working with the mentally ill and disabled, as it was created by voter referendum to do.

One of those critics has been County Board member Donna Kurtz, R-Crystal Lake, who since her January appointment as public health committee chairwoman has embarked on a campaign to put new faces on the nine-member, unpaid Mental Health Board. The committee recommended three new members, ousting the Mental Health Board president in the process, and all three nominees sailed through the County Board with only a handful of opposing votes.

But when the committee, on a 4-3 vote, nominated former McHenry County College trustee Scott Summers to fill this latest vacancy, the County Board crushed the idea on a 6-18 vote. Immediately after that May 7 vote, Hill announced that she would exercise her right under County Board rules to select a nominee of her own.

Kurtz and a majority of her committee decided to submit another nominee and voted at a special May 14 meeting to nominate banker Jeff Thorsen, who like Ferguson is a Crystal Lake City Council member and one of the six candidates left from the pool that included Summers. But Hill said she would not put the nominee on the agenda, and two days later nominated Ferguson.

Ferguson, who has a master's degree in counseling, has worked for almost 35 years as a family therapist at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights. Most of those who voted against her made it clear that they did not oppose her, but the process by which she was brought forward.

"I have no problem with Cathy Ferguson," Kurtz said. "She's a really lovely lady. But the process is the process."

But the majority solidly stood behind Ferguson, including four members of the public health committee.

"Ms. Ferguson was articulate, impassioned, and her over 30 years in the mental health field makes her an exceptional candidate, and I think she would be an asset," Anna May Miller, R-Cary, said.


How they voted

The McHenry County Board voted Tuesday evening, 16-8, to appoint Chairwoman Tina Hill's nominee Cathy Ferguson to fill a vacancy on the Mental Health Board.

Voting yes were Sue Draffkorn, R-Wonder Lake, Joe Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, John Jung, R-Woodstock, Ken Koehler, R-Crystal Lake, James Heisler, R-Crystal Lake, Robert Martens Sr., R-Spring Grove, Mary McCann, R-Woodstock, Mary McClellan, R-Holiday Hills, Anna May Miller, R-Cary, Robert Nowak, R-Cary, Nick Provenzano, R-McHenry, Sandra Fay Salgado, R-McHenry, Carolyn Schofield, R-Crystal Lake, Paula Yensen, D-Lake in the Hills, Michele Aavang, R-Woodstock, and Hill, R-Woodstock.

Voting no were Yvonne Barnes, R-Cary, Nick Chirikos, D-Algonquin, Diane Evertsen, R-Harvard, John Hammerand, R-Wonder Lake, Donna Kurtz, R-Crystal Lake, Ersel Schuster, R-Woodstock, Michael Skala, R-Huntley, and Michael Walkup, R-Crystal Lake.

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