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Lauzen backs off Executive Committee speaking policy

Published: Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 3:09 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 6:58 a.m. CDT

GENEVA – All members of the Kane County Board have been given clearance to speak at all Kane County Board committee meetings, ending a dustup between the board's chairman and a number of board members.

Wednesday, Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen backed off of a policy he had enacted last month to limit discussion of matters coming before the Kane County Board's Executive Committee.

While all County Board members were free to speak and ask questions at most committee meetings and at meetings of the full board, Lauzen had restricted give-and-take discussion during meetings of the Executive Committee only to the County Board committee chairmen, who make up the Executive Committee's membership.

With 14 chairmen serving on the Executive Committee, that left 10 board members who were unable to participate in the discussion of issues being considered by the Executive Committee.

Lauzen had encouraged any of those board members who were not on the Executive Committee to sign up to address the committee, as members of the public are asked to do.

The decision did not sit well with some members of the County Board – and particularly among the 10 excluded from the Executive Committee. Some expressed concern that the decision effectively left many county residents without representation at those committee meetings.

Others worried the policy would lead to poorer decisions by the board, as board members might use the Executive Committee meetings to question potential actions and work out details on matters before they go to the full County Board for a vote.

Amid the criticism, Lauzen opted not to defend the policy. Instead, he backed a vote by the County Board to formally set a policy that would allow all board members to speak at the Executive Committee meetings, with a stipulation that board members not on the committee agree to allow committee members to speak and discuss the matters first.

Board members not on the committee also were urged to keep their statements or questions brief and on topic, should they wish to speak at Executive Committee.

Lauzen said he did not believe the policy was important enough to merit an argument.

He said he believed he was being held to a different standard than his predecessor, former Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay, who enacted a policy at Executive Committee meetings that members of the board not on the Executive Committee could make statements about committee business, but not engage in debate with committee members or question county staff during the meetings.

The policy has been derisively referred to as the "Bonnie Rule," as it was believed the policy was enacted as a way of limiting the oft-times ranging and lengthy questioning and debate engaged in during county meetings by former Kane County Board member Bonnie Kunkel, D-Aurora.

"I see that some on the board wish now to hold me to a higher standard, but I am happy to accommodate," Lauzen said.

Lauzen warned the change would likely result in longer committee meetings.

But he believed any further discussion on his Executive Committee discussion policy would distract from what he believes are the "important" issues facing the county.

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