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Kane department heads to define, defend hiring 'emergencies'

GENEVA – Those in charge of Kane County government’s various departments could soon gain greater leeway in hiring.

Next month, the Kane County Board could again take up the matter of revising the county’s hiring rules.

That discussion will come after the County Board’s Finance Committee recommended approval of another revision to the ordinance governing the county’s 5-year-old hiring freeze policy.

Under the latest revision, county department heads, such as those overseeing such agencies as the Kane County Division of Transportation or the Kane County Health Department, would be empowered to make “emergency” hires, at their discretion.

However, any hirings made for “emergency” purposes would need to be reported promptly to the County Board committee holding oversight of their department, and to the Kane County Board chairman.

The hirings then would be subject to review by the County Board within 45 days, according to the language recommended by the Finance Committee on Wednesday.

The County Board began reviewing the hiring freeze rules earlier this year when some County Board members questioned whether those rules were being properly interpreted and whether they needed clarification.

The questions arose following the temporary hiring of a billing manager in the county’s Animal Control Department, an employment which was not submitted to the full board for review, despite a hiring freeze policy in place.

The freeze had been instituted in 2008 to prevent county departments under the board’s oversight from increasing their staffs amid a time of stagnant revenue.

The policy review has bounced among various county committees in an attempt to clear up what some board members called “ambiguities” in the ordinance.

Under previous revisions, the board had explicitly given department heads authority to hire, without formal board approval, to fill vacancies in pre-existing positions at the same salary or less, or to respond to emergency situations.

The language at that time, however, provided definitions of emergencies, including declining county revenues, such as those experienced by Animal Control last year and used to justify the rapid hire of the billing manager.

On Wednesday, however, board members opted to delete such definitions from the ordinance, instead leaving it to department heads to define an “emergency” – and then, compel them later to defend that reasoning before the board.

The matter is scheduled to advance to the County Board’s Executive Committee on May 8 for further discussion.

• Nicole Weskerna contributed to this report.

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