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Kane board OKs hiring rules changes, continues debate on ‘temporary’ hires

GENEVA – Kane County's government has rewritten its hiring rules, granting those overseeing the county's various departments more latitude to hire replacements or in emergencies.

But some on the County Board believe the discussion on the county's hiring freeze should continue, specifically to address whether the County Board chairman should have the ability to hire temporary workers by contract.

"There is a gaping loophole here, if you can create new positions simply by calling them 'temporary,'" said County Board member Mike Donahue, R-Geneva. "This isn't a hiring Slushee we have; it's a hiring freeze."

The Kane County Board on Tuesday approved a series of changes to the county's ordinance governing the county's 5-year-old hiring freeze.

Previously, the rules had required all county departments to submit any requested hires for review by the County Board. The rules had been put in place to grant greater budget oversight to the County Board during difficult economic times.

However, board members opted to rewrite the ordinance, giving county department heads the power to hire, without formal board approval, to fill vacancies in pre-existing positions at the same salary or less.

Department heads also would be empowered to make "emergency" hires at their discretion, subject to a review within 45 days of the hire. Those rewritten rules passed by a vote of 16-5 Tuesday.

However, during discussion on the measure, some on the County Board argued the revisions did not go far enough.

Donahue said it did nothing to address the question of whether county government officials can skirt the freeze by hiring "temporary" employees.

He noted discussion over the hiring rules was sparked following Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen's decision to hire without board approval a temporary billing manager for the county's Animal Control department.

And Donahue pointed to Lauzen's search to hire a temporary "community outreach coordinator" to coordinate promotion of various county initiatives.

Lauzen defended his hiring decisions, noting that the billing manager has helped restore revenue at Animal Control to viable levels. And he said the community outreach coordinator position would only be a temporary contracted "specific assignment" to complete "research" on county outreach.

"If this had been done in the private sector, we'd be celebrating initiative being taken," Lauzen said.

Other board members indicated they would be open to discussing Donahue's concerns later.

"If someone said to me, we're hiring temporary employees, it's not an emergency, and not in the budget, if we have a hiring freeze, that's something we should consider," said County Board member John Hoscheit, R-St. Charles, chairman of the board's Finance Committee. "It's something we can address in the future."

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