Home World Republican walk out prevents Will County vote on board raises

Republican walk out prevents Will County vote on board raises

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The Will County Board did not vote on pay raises for county elected officials Tuesday after Republicans left the board room in the middle of a special meeting Tuesday, resulting in no quorum to conduct official business.

Because votes were not taken, countywide elected officials and board members who are up for election in November will have their salaries unchanged for the next four years.

County Board members have not had a salary increase since 2009, while salaries for countywide elected officials, which are full-time jobs, have remained constant since 2007. Board members make $23,000 a year; countywide elected officials make $93,116 a year.

“When we refuse to give increases for even a cost of living for darn near 20 years, that’s a dereliction of our duty, I think,” said Democrat Meta Mueller of Aurora.

“Our jobs were not done today,” said board member Mica Freeman, a Democrat from Plainfield. “We did not fulfill the duties we took the oath of office to complete.”

The majority of items on Tuesday’s agenda dealt with proposed pay raises, which had to be completed by June 5 to take effect after November’s election. Six board members representing three districts will be on the ballot as well as the county executive, the circuit clerk for the courts, recorder of deeds, auditor and coroner. The County Board does not set the salary for the state’s attorney, which is also up for election in November.

In the first vote, Democratic Leader Jackie Traynere of Bolingbrook, asked to increase the county executive’s salary from $93,116 to $100,000 a year with 2.5% increases for the following three years, which failed.

During a subsequent vote to raise the county executive’s salary, Republicans began walking out of the room. Because the roll call started while members were still in the board room, Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Tatroe said the vote was allowed to count, resulting in nine yes votes cast by Democrats and assuming the nine Republicans who left were no votes.

County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, a Democrat who breaks ties on the evenly divided Will County Board, abstained from voting, saying that she is “one for all, all for one” and would not feel good voting for a pay raise for the executive’s office without consideration for the other offices. Bertino-Tarrant is running for reelection against Republican Chuck Maher.

Subsequent votes on raises could not take place because of a lack of quorum.

“This seems to be a reoccurring situation where we have meetings and people don’t show up, people walk out,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “I spent eight years in Springfield, and a lot of people think Springfield is dysfunctional. I came home thinking something different, and it’s so disappointing how people refuse to work. … It’s frustrating.”

She said it was unprofessional for elected officials to walk out of meeting when they disagree with the items they are voting on.

The sentiment was echoed by other board Democrats.

“These elected officials take time out of their day to represent the constituents of this county,” board member Joe VanDuyne, a Democrat from Wilmington, said. “People involved in the actions today are childish. If I don’t like the outcome of a vote or if I can guess the outcome of the vote and I’m not happy with it, at least I’m man enough to stay here and take that vote. People in this room have demonstrated childish activities, and it’s an embarrassment.”

County Board Chair Judy Ogalla, a Republican from Monee, said she was receptive to pay increases for countywide officials, county board members and the county board chairperson. Ogalla said while the Republican Caucus was not interested in pay raises, she created a raise plan that she could agree on.

These included a 1% pay raise per year for fiscal year 2025 through fiscal year 2028 for countywide elected officials. This proposal would bring their salaries up from $93,116 to about $96,897 by fiscal year 2028.

Under Ogalla’s plan, board members would get a $500 a year increase in the next two years and a $1,000 a year increase for fiscal years 2027 and 2028, ending up with a $26,000 a year salary.

The county board chairperson would receive a bump of $10,500 for fiscal year 2025 and then subsequent salary increases of $500 and $1,000 ending with a total salary of $36,000 by fiscal year 2028.

Ogalla said she put forth these raises as “conversation starters” and talked to some board Democrats over the weekend.

Ogalla said Traynere offered a proposal that she could not agree to and noted that two weeks ago, Traynere left a committee of the whole meeting to discuss salaries after 11 minutes.

Traynere said she wanted a 1.5% a year increase for countywide officials, so that countywide positions aren’t taking a pay cut each year. Countywide elected officials take-home pay is less than it was 16 years ago because of rising health insurance, she said.

“I just wanted to see us finally vote for a pay raise no matter how insulting a pay raise,” Traynere said.

Traynere said that Ogalla supported the 1% raises, but invited her to make amendments to the pay raises at the meeting.

Traynere said she’s been trying to discuss salary increases since December.

Board member Katie Deane-Schlottman, a Republican from Joliet, said the Democrats interested in pay raises could have requested a special meeting at anytime.

“I think it’s childish and embarrassing that they believe that everybody countywide needs a raise and we’re balancing that on the fact we are asking people who can’t pay bills right now to get prepared for another tax increase,” Deane-Schlottman said after the meeting had adjourned.

Jim Richmond, a Republican from Mokena, said the Republicans were opposed to raises, but Ogalla worked out an agreement with Democrats, and they changed it.

“If you make an agreement with someone and you are sitting across from them, and they change the agreement, do you sit there or do you get up and leave,” board member Vince Logan, a Republican from Joliet, said.

Traynere said the board members are paid a salary to be at meetings and they could have hashed it out.

Democrat Natalie Coleman of Plainfield, who is not running for reelection, said public servants take time away from their families and their jobs. Will County is one of the largest counties in the state, and cost of living has gone up, she said.

She noted the auditor has only three people on staff, and the coroner deals with emotional and serious incidents on a daily basis. She said it affects people who want to run for office because they want to be paid a decent salary.

“This is a true disservice to our county,” Coleman said. “We are not voting for the person in these seats. I’m voting for a pay raise for the next people coming in.”

Michelle Mullins is a freelance reporter.



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