McHenry County Board fills Human Resources Committee, ending impasse

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WOODSTOCK – More than two months after sparing it from consolidation, the McHenry County Board finally has members on its Human Resources Committee.

Board members voted Tuesday evening, 24-0, to appoint seven members to the committee, which is tasked with overseeing county employees’ salaries and benefits, and negotiating with their unions.

However, the vote was preceded by an unsuccessful attempt to replace John Jung, R-Woodstock, the Committee on Committees’ choice for Human Resources chairman, with Michael Rein, R-Woodstock, who if he wins his April 4 race for Woodstock mayor will have to resign from the County Board altogether.

Tuesday’s vote was the second attempt to fill Human Resources by the Committee on Committees, the ad-hoc group tasked after every November election with assigning members to the groups in which much of county government’s work gets done. Its previous attempt was unsuccessful last month, when both the nominees for chairwoman and vice chairwoman withdrew their names from consideration.

Human Resources was proposed to be eliminated under a committee consolidation plan spearheaded by County Board Chairman Jack Franks, D-Marengo, shortly after he took office. But the full board, led by Rein, voted to spare it, calling its function too important and time-consuming to fold into the Finance and Audit Committee.

Two hours before Tuesday evening’s meeting, the Committee on Committees voted, 7-0, to advance the nominees for Human Resources. However, it chose Jung, a small business owner who has led the committee in the past, over Rein on a 4-3 split, with Franks casting the decisive vote.

Donna Kurtz, R-Crystal Lake, led the attempt on the County Board floor to change the chairman to Rein, a chiropractor who helped overhaul the county’s health insurance.

“His vision is going to realize some significant savings and value to the county,” Kurtz said.

Board Vice Chairman Jeff Thorsen, R-Crystal Lake, cited Rein’s role in keeping the Human Resources Committee independent as a reason as to why he should lead it.

But Franks not only called Jung the best person for the job, but also called it “a bit absurd” that some members wanted to name Rein as leader given that he may not be a member in a few months. Should he win the Woodstock mayoral race, he will have to step down from the board under state law.

Although Franks said he and Jung have strongly disagreed on many issues over the years, he said Jung’s experience makes him an unparalleled candidate to lead Human Resources. Jung owns Shur-Pak Inc., an onion repacking and distribution company in Elk Grove Village.

“[Jung] has extensive experience and expertise, and clearly is the best person for the position, and we need the right person for the job,” Franks said.

The effort to replace Jung with Rein died, 13-12, with Franks for the first time getting to cast his tiebreaking vote – it still would have died on the 12-12 tie. A new law signed last month by Gov. Bruce Rauner gave Franks and chairmen of other larger counties the power to break ties.

Besides Jung and Rein, the Human Resources Committee includes Kurtz; Tom Wilbeck, R-Barrington Hills; Don Kopsell, R-Crystal Lake; Craig Wilcox, R-McHenry; and Vice Chairwoman Mary McCann, R-Crystal Lake.

The debate over the filling of Human Resources was the longest in recent memory that a County Board committee stayed empty after an election.

But besides the delay caused by the sparing of the committee from elimination, the election of a Democrat as board chairman over a Republican-dominated County Board has changed the longtime political dynamic.

The new state law that gives Franks a tiebreaker vote was inspired by last year’s first race for McHenry County Board chairman. It was included in a bill aimed at preventing candidates from holding two seats on the same county board.

Republican board member Michael Walkup, R-Crystal Lake, who ran against Franks, also ran for his board seat so he still would get to vote on issues.

How they voted

The McHenry County Board voted Tuesday evening, 24-0, to approve the membership of its Human Resources Committee.

An attempt to replace Chairman John Jung with member Michael Rein failed on a 13-12 vote. Chairman Jack Franks, D-Marengo, used his tiebreaker vote for the first time.