GENEVA – When industrial designer June Maher created an invitation and map for a 2011 seminar and luncheon for Geneva Township Highway Commissioner Mark Wissing, she said she was hired to design a professional-looking missive.
She charged the highway department for 9.8 hours of work at $55 an hour, a significant discount from her usual fee of $70 to $100 an hour. Working from her second-floor office at her home in Geneva Township, Maher charged $539.25 for her time and materials.
“Mr. Wissing contracted me – because I am a professional designer – to work on many projects for him,” Maher said. “I worked on permits. I worked on the website, and I worked on this document for the luncheon.”
The invitations have become an issue in Tuesday’s consolidated election, as Michael Abts, Wissing’s challenger for township road commissioner, charged that the incumbent spent too much money on 20 invitations as it appears on her invoice.
But Maher said it was more work than that. Most of her time, Maher said, was spent designing an inset map so the county’s highway commissioners and others could find the office. Although its address is 400 Wheeler Drive, the way it is tucked into Wheeler Park requires some knowledge of how to get there.
“You can’t Google it,” Maher said. “It does not come up on MapQuest. I had to create the map because it did not exist.”
Fifty invitations were sent via email, fax and mail to all of Kane County’s township highway commissioners, a half-dozen County Board members and the county’s transportation division staff. The seminar was on the new Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, federally mandated requirements for signage and striping.
According to invoices Abts received through a Freedom of Information Act request, the luncheon itself cost $700 – $500 for 50 fried chicken dinners from The Little Owl in Geneva and $200 for the catering labor.
“My understanding is, the other road commissioners have meetings, too,” Abts said. “They have people come in and give a talk for 20 minutes and bring in sandwiches at no cost. If the other road commissioners could not find it [Geneva Township], they should have been able to Google it … and save taxpayers’ money.”
But Wissing said that the money spent was budgeted.
“There was a lot of information and handouts,” Wissing said. “Every year, I budget for seminars ... and never spent a nickel on any except that one.”
The guest speaker was Matthew Gauntt, currently a candidate for Geneva Park Board.
Gauntt, a traffic engineer, said the manual is updated every five years, and he gives several seminars to various groups. Gauntt said he did not charge for the seminar.
Wissing said Maher’s invoice included other professional services, such as designing and implementing a downloadable permit application for the website. Maher’s work is also known in the area, because she designed the Tri-Cities Soccer Association logo, the new logo for Wiliamsburg school – The Patriots – and the terrazzo floors in that school and Fabyan.
Except for a small fee for the Fabyan terrazzo, Maher said she donated the other work.