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Ex-deputy clerk had been poised for ‘chief of staff’ post

GENEVA – A former deputy clerk, who used the county's email to do campaign work for Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham's primary election campaign, had been poised to be promoted to a newly created position within the clerk's office, records show.

Jeffrey N. Ward's name is listed as "chief of staff" on 100 business cards that Cunningham ordered to be printed by the county's Information Technology print office, according to records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The cards were requested March 7 by Cunningham's office.

Ward was suspended for five days after he sent a campaign-related email to the Illinois State Board of Elections on March 12. Ward no longer works for the office, having left the position April 1.

Ward, who was to be paid $11,298.42 in a severance agreement, did not return a voice mail message seeking comment. Ward worked for 17 months as a systems analyst at the clerk's office.

Cunningham won his party's nomination in the March 18 primary and will seek a fourth term in November. Cunningham said he eliminated Ward's position as a systems analyst during an office reorganization, and he said he ended up not pursuing the chief of staff position for Ward because of the cost.   

"Salary – that was the problem," Cunningham said. "I never created the position. It wasn't making sense."

Cunningham said he was not sure that Ward knew he was being considered for a possible new position of chief of staff.

"Did he know? I don't think so. I mentioned I might be reorganizing the office, but he never knew I had the cards printed up," Cunningham said. "It was just one of those things. I had the cards printed up at no cost. I had cards reprinted for myself, too."

Cunningham said other county clerk offices have both a chief of staff and a chief deputy clerk, but the Kane County office is too small for both positions. 

"The functions can be handled by a chief deputy and secretary," Cunningham said. "It's like an office manager position."

Cunningham said he had not created a job description or a salary for a chief of staff.

Kane County Human Resources Executive Director Sheila McCraven said she would not comment about the existence of a job description or salary for a possible chief of staff position in the clerk's office.

Ward had worked part time at the clerk's office, starting Dec. 7, 2012, and going full time June 9, 2013, earning $47,990.90, according to county payroll records. The severance amount represented 12 weeks of salary, according to the severance agreement.

Cunningham's Chief Deputy Stan Bond, who earns $81,559.96 according to county records, would not comment about what might have happened to his job if the chief of staff position had been created and Ward had been named to it.

"It would be best for Jack to explain his intentions," Bond said.

Bond recently was elected to the Illinois Republican State Central Committee for the 14th District. He also is an elected trustee in the Village of Montgomery.

A review of Ward and Cunningham's county email accounts, released through the Freedom of Information Act, showed both Ward and Cunningham used the county's computers and email addresses for Cunningham's re-election campaign. Ward's use of the county email was referred to the county ethics adviser, who referred it to the Kane County State's Attorney's Office. The state's attorney's office said it does not comment on possible or pending investigations.

Kane County Treasurer David Rickert said a representative of the county clerk's office picked up Ward's severance check May 9, but records show it has not yet been cashed. 

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