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Questions arise over possible Kane County animal control hire

GENEVA – Just three months removed from a campaign in which he criticized his predecessors for politically motivated hiring practices, Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen has come under criticism for promoting the hiring of a political supporter for a job in the county's animal control department.

For years, the Kane County Board has struggled to find the right candidate to take leadership in the controversy-plagued animal control department, as three successive selections for animal control director have either resigned or been replaced.

But Lauzen said the lack of leadership is now costing the county money, as a lack of billing management caused the department to miss an annual mortgage payment last year, forcing the county to find $186,000 this year to pay both years' payments.

To remedy that problem, Lauzen said he sought to fill the post of director of animal control quickly.

Last month, he presented the County Board with candidate Robert Sauceda. Discussions were held in closed session.

Board members, however, did not support that selection. County Board member Jesse Vazquez, D-Aurora, said he believed that Sauceda's experience did not present a good match for the position.

"I don't know Sauceda from Adam, but his resume did not fall in line with the requirements for the office," Vazquez said.

Sauceda had listed experience as a sales manager and as an insurance agent.

Some board members also questioned Lauzen's motives for seeking to appoint Sauceda, as they noted that Sauceda backed Lauzen's run and also launched a primary challenge against County Board member Mike Kenyon, R-South Elgin, who was a supporter of former County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay.

Lauzen had based his campaign largely around criticism of McConnaughay for "cronyism."

"I think a political appointment is not appropriate," Vazquez said. "We need to find the best person."

In the face of board members' opposition, Lauzen withdrew Sauceda's nomination, and opened the position for further applicants. But in the meantime, Lauzen said he is seeking to hire a billing manager in animal control, to begin collecting some of those delinquent bills.

And Lauzen said Sauceda is among the candidates for that position.

Kenyon said he believed Lauzen is correct in seeking to find someone to collect unpaid bills. But he said attempting to appoint a political supporter looks bad, even if that supporter may be the best candidate for the job.

"Chris [Lauzen] is on the right path, because there is definitely a problem and he's addressing it," Kenyon said. "But in government, we're supposed to go based on resumes when we hire.

"And the really unfortunate thing in this is that Robert Sauceda looks bad, and he really shouldn't."

Lauzen said he is open to the idea of making any appointment at animal control temporary. But he said, no matter what happens, the money must be collected.

"The people criticizing, they had failed three times before [to fix animal control]," Lauzen said. "They failed, and they cost us money.

"While the critics want to play politics, it's their prerogative. However, we're going to collect that money."

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