GENEVA – Three months removed from a campaign in which he criticized his predecessors for politically-motivated hiring practices, 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 County Board has struggled to find the right candidate to take leadership in the animal control department because three successive selections for animal control director have either resigned or been replaced.
But Lauzen said the lack of leadership now costs the county money because 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 quickly.
Last month, he presented the County Board with candidate Robert Sauceda. Discussions were in closed session.
Board members did not support that selection.
County Board member Jesse Vazquez, D-Aurora, said he believed 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 insurance agent.
Board members also questioned Lauzen’s motives for seeking to appoint Sauceda, noting 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.
In the meantime, Lauzen said he wants to hire a billing manager in animal control to collect delinquent bills. And Lauzen said Sauceda is among the candidates for that position.
Kenyon said he believed Lauzen is correct in looking for someone to collect unpaid bills, but 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 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 they’re prerogative. However, we’re going to collect that money.”