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Local

County Board members tell Lauzen to back off from supervising county employees

Hoscheit, Martin tell Lauzen the limits of his authority

GENEVA – Two committee chairmen sent Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen a letter ordering him to back off from trying to direct day-to-day operations of county departments or department heads.

The two-page letter, dated Aug. 5, is signed by County Board members John Hoscheit, R-St. Charles and John Martin, R-Geneva.

Hoscheit is chairman of the Finance and the CARES Act Allocation committees and Martin is chairman of the Development Committee.

Copies were sent to all County Board members and to Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon.

The letter refers to a memo Lauzen sent to Scott Berger, who is director of the Office of Community Reinvestment and the Workforce Development Board, questioning – among other things – the authorization of a remote work assignment for Josh Beck, who is assistant Director for Community Development.

“Why is it an acceptable management practice to have allowed your assistant director, a county manager, to work for Kane County but live in Minnesota since January?” Lauzen’s Aug. 4 memo to Berger stated.

Lauzen said he discovered that Beck was working remotely by checking payroll records to see where his paychecks were being sent.

“Taxpayers expect a Kane County employee is going to live somewhere in this area,” Lauzen said. “All I did was ask a question. ‘Why is he working from Minnesota? Who did you (Berger) notify?’”

Stay in your lane

But according to Hoscheit and Martin’s letter, Lauzen does not have the authority to ask those questions.

“Pursuant to the Kane County Code, you have no authority to direct the day-to-day operations and conduct of the County Departments, nor do you have the authority to direct or supervise the work of department heads,” Hoscheit and Martin’s letter stated.

“Your authority and duties are limited, specifically to presiding over the meetings of the Kane County Board and other duties as assigned by the Board,” the letter stated. “Mr. Berger did not need to seek your approval of the remote work assignment and the day-to-day operations of the (Office of Community Reinvestment and the Workforce Development Board) OCR/WDB.”

Their letter cites state law that governs county employees, which is “expressly placed under the authority of the County Board, not the Chairman.”

Their letter directs Lauzen to send his communications regarding performance and employment of Berger to the chairman of the standing committee.

And it directs him to follow five rules, calling for him to communicate only with the standing committees or their chairmen, not with Berger or any other employees at the Office of Community Reinvestment.

“All prior instruction or direction issued to Mr. Berger in conflict with the foregoing will be disregarded,” the letter stated.

Hoscheit said he co-signed the letter to clarify the chain of command to stop Lauzen from interfering or threatening interference with county staff.

“Staff is getting conflicting direction,” Hoscheit said. “If a committee chairman requests staff’s help in one way and a request from the chairman is not to help or help in a different way … I got involved because we need Scott Berger’s help. We need all hands on deck on this, not someone in the background telling them not to cooperate or do something else.”

'I don't work for them'

Lauzen said he works six days a week while county board members come in six to eight times per month – so how could they possibly know what is happening day-to-day in the county?

“Being County Board Chairman is so much more than cutting ribbons and running meetings,” Lauzen said. “I have weekly manager meetings with all department directors to help those managers – not only to help them in their areas, but also to share information in what is happening and how we can work together.”

Lauzen criticized the letter as harsh.

“They are going about this in a crude way,” Lauzen said, of Hoscheit and Martin. “I don’t work for them. I work for 532,000 people (of Kane County) and they expect proper behavior.”

Lauzen recounted his expertise, being a Harvard MBA, an Illinois CPA, who spent 20 years in the Illinois Senate and who built a multi-million accounting practice in five years.

“What you need is somebody like that to produce results to give board members these easy votes,” Lauzen said. “They want to diminish that.”

Lauzen also criticized board members who formed the ad hoc Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act Allocation Committee to disperse the $92.9 million in federal money the county received.

The committee formed last month to take control of dispersing the federal money, ultimately dissolving a task force Lauzen had formed to do that.

“They are discovering things are much harder to produce well than it appears on the surface,” Lauzen said. "People will do some strange things when $93 million is at stake during a campaign season.”

Neither Hoscheit or Martin would comment on why Beck is working remotely, citing personnel issues which are discussed in closed session.

In an email response, Berger confirmed that, “As a matter of policy, we do not discuss personnel matters publicly, so I cannot address your inquiry regarding my employee.”

“However, I will say that the scenario involving an out-of-state resident being employed by Kane County is neither unprecedented, nor precluded under county code or policy,” Berger’s email stated.

Beck did not respond to an email seeking comment.

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