McHenry Township's process to fill vacant board seat draws criticism

Supervisor, residents criticize the process to fill Cunningham’s seat

Craig Adams, left, and Bob Anderson, right
Craig Adams, left, and Bob Anderson, right

The process unfolding in McHenry Township to fill a vacant trustee seat has the township supervisor and residents interested in taking the job accusing board members of orchestrating a backroom political deal to appoint their handpicked candidate.

At a special meeting Monday night, McHenry Township officials interviewed three candidates interested in filling former Trustee Bill Cunningham’s seat after he moved to Wisconsin.

Those candidates were JoAnne Neumann, Mark Jaeger and Steve Verr. Both Newman and Jaeger interviewed with the board in an open forum. Verr requested that his interview take place in a private executive session.

Although three candidates remained on the board’s list to interview for the job, Trustees Bob Anderson and Mike Rakestraw later called for a special meeting Thursday to pick a replacement.

To Supervisor Craig Adams, the request for a special meeting represents an attempt to “railroad” into office Anderson’s candidate of choice: Verr.

Anderson would not comment on whether he would make a motion to appoint Verr to office Thursday, but he offered this statement: “I cannot see how [the board] would not support Steve Verr.”

Verr declined to comment.

Verr is an attorney and the former chairman of McHenry Township’s Republican Party. He also has a history in McHenry County politics.

In March 1998, Verr was involved in one of the closest and most fervent races ever recorded in McHenry County. State representative candidate Mike Brown defeated Verr by a few hundred votes to represent Republicans in the 63rd House District general election against Jack Franks.

In a bitter campaign, Brown attacked Verr’s past military, college and work years, while Verr accused Brown of serving as a political puppet with an unreliable voting record.

Verr lost a bid for McHenry Township supervisor against Adams in 2017.

Adams said it’s a good chance Verr will be appointed to the McHenry Township board Thursday.

“It wouldn’t be good,” Adams said. “We don’t see eye to eye.”

Verr was not one of four candidates chosen by the McHenry Township Republican Party as a recommendation to fill the vacant seat. Township officials put out a call for candidates, and Verr applied.

McHenry Township resident Gary Barla was included on the party’s list.

He said the process so far shows a lack of transparency.

“It’s not right,” said Barla, a former McHenry Township trustee who was appointed and served 17 months on the board.

Barla said appointing Verr to office would be the only way Anderson – who ran with Verr on the Tax Revolt slate – could maintain his overwhelming voting power on the board.

Also a member of the Tax Revolt slate, Cunningham was one of the supporting votes that pushed a binding referendum onto the November ballot asking voters whether the road district should be eliminated. On June 20, Cunningham dropped off a handwritten resignation letter to Adams.

Anderson said the complaints are politics.

“It’s a political move,” he said. “This is becoming extremely vicious.”

McHenry Township’s special meeting is set for 6 p.m. Thursday at McHenry Township Hall, 3703 N. Richmond Road, Johnsburg.

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