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Lauzen tabs Sauceda for animal control post; Kane board stays vote

GENEVA – Despite a “glowing endorsement” from the head of the county’s health department, the Kane County Board opted to give itself another month to consider whether to sign off on the appointment of a political supporter of Kane County’s chief executive to be the head of Animal Control.

Tuesday, the Kane County Board postponed until November a vote on the appointment of Robert Sauceda as the county’s new animal control administrator.

The 13-11 vote to table came despite a strong push from Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen and words of high praise for Sauceda from Barb Jeffers, executive director of the Kane County Health Department, which oversees Animal Control.

The appointment did not come as a surprise, as Lauzen had attempted to appoint Sauceda to the post at the beginning of the year. That idea encountered strong opposition from some on the board to the appointment of Sauceda, who had come with no prior experience in animal control or veterinary medicine.

Sauceda had backed Lauzen’s run for Kane County Board chairman in 2012.

Lauzen instead seized on a compromise solution, appointing Sauceda in January to serve as billing manager in the financially plagued county department.

Since that time, Sauceda has performed well in the post, Jeffers and Lauzen said.

Jeffers noted that revenue in the department – which is self-funding and receives no tax money – increased 36 percent under Sauceda’s administration versus. 2012.

Last year, the department was without an administrator for the final six months of the year after the resignation of the last administrator, and the resulting financial turmoil forced the county to make animal control’s annual payment on the loan for the animal control facility.

Jeffers said Sauceda focused on increasing the collection of unpaid animal registration fees. She said he also increased adoptions of animals from Animal Control, and helped the department catch up on its record keeping.

As the county sought a new Animal Control administrator, Jeffers said Sauceda was one of three candidates interviewed for the job.

“And Rob Sauceda was the chosen one,” Jeffers said.

She said the County Board should give Sauceda “the opportunity to grow and expand” the Animal Control Department.

Some on the board, however, questioned how the appointment was being made.

These asked why Lauzen did not at least submit the appointment first to the County Board’s Public Health Committee, which has oversight of Animal Control, before bringing it to the full board as a late addition to Tuesday’s County Board agenda.

“I can’t help but feel this wasn’t a completely just process,” said County Board member Myrna Molina, D-Aurora. “That this candidate had a leg up because he was already doing the job.”

To give more time to discuss the matter, Molina asked the board to delay the vote for 30 days, to which the board narrowly agreed.

After the meeting, Lauzen chided the board for not immediately assenting to Jeffers’ recommendation, and said he was disappointed with the decision to postpone, calling it “a disservice to taxpayers.”

He also noted that he had opted to wait to bring the appointment to the board until minutes before it was to vote on the matter, because he wanted to avoid allowing “a couple of folks” on the board to “play politics” with the appointment.

Lauzen said he hoped the board will use the delay to see the good he said Sauceda has done for Animal Control.

“They certainly did not say no,” Lauzen said of the board. “They said they want to give it more thought.” 

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