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Saline board seeks contempt of court charge against clerk

 
By Travis DeNeal tdeneal@dailyregister.com
Posted on 3/9/2018, 1:03 PM

SALINE COUNTY -- Saline County Board members voted Wednesday at a special meeting to ask State's Attorney Jayson Clark to pursue a contempt of court charge against County Clerk Kim Buchanan.

The action stems from an earlier agreement between the county and Buchanan. The board had voted some time back to require each county department to submit a report to the board.

The board charged that Buchanan was not submitting the report. The Williamson County state's attorney's office represented the county in that case, and Buchanan was represented by the Union County state's attorney's office.

Both sides reached an agreement, but board members said the reports still had not been submitted months later.

Also at the meeting, the board approved a request from County Treasurer Jeff Murrie to name his office as the county's Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund authorized agent.

Earlier this year, board members voted to move payroll duties to the treasurer's office, citing payroll errors made by the county clerk's office.

Murrie made the request because he said it would be much easier for the office doing payroll to handle IMRF deductions.

In addition, some employees had long-term IMRF deductions improperly figured, meaning those employees and the county could be on the hook for several thousand dollars' worth of reimbursement, Murrie said.

Earlier in the day, Judge Mark Clarke presided over a hearing in a lawsuit Buchanan filed against Murrie and Circuit Clerk Randy Nyberg. In that suit, Buchanan is asking that payroll duties be returned to her office.

Citing the Illinois Constitution, Clarke said he had concerns about a county board eliminating "in full or in part" a county office.

Clark, the Saline County State's Attorney, said the county's position was that moving payroll duties to the treasurer's office was necessary because some paychecks were erroneous and sometimes had not been delivered on time.

In that case, Buchanan is represented by both Appellate Court Special Prosecutor Daniel Robinson and private attorney Thomas Crosby. Clarke, the judge, noted that Buchanan was financially responsible for any of Crosby's work on her behalf.

The two sides reached a temporary agreement whereby Buchanan would remain an authorized signatory for county checks, though Murrie and Nyberg would retain signatory authorization as well, State's Attorney Clark told board members Wednesday night.

The temporary arrangement is designed so that checks may continue to go out while the dispute is ongoing.

Also at Thursday's meeting, insurance committee chairman Steve Karns said he had learned of a potential issue regarding supplemental insurance policies carried by employees through AFLAC.

He said a county employee's child had been attacked by a dog and received medical attention. The child also will require additional surgeries.

Karns said when the employee contacted AFLAC, he learned his policy had lapsed because premiums had not been received. Karns said premiums for AFLAC policies for county employees are supposed to be deducted from payroll, then sent to AFLAC.

Karns said he was working with the company, who agreed to reinstate the policy retroactive to the lapse date provided AFLAC receive past due payments.

County board members also asked whether any update about new voting equipment testing had been received.

One Saline County resident Ellis "Eli" McEwan stood and said he had concerns about whether the upcoming primary election would be conducted properly. Elections are overseen by the county clerk's office.

"After hearing about all these problems, I just want to know that my vote is going to count," Ellis said. "I was in the Army and I fought for our rights."

One county board member asked county Democratic Party Chairman Bob Oglesby whether he had been informed by the county clerk of voting equipment testing. Oglesby said he had been told voting equipment testing will be conducted today.

County resident Bill Bethel, who is Kim Buchanan's father, told board members he believed the purpose of the special board meeting was to sway public opinion against Buchanan before the March 20 primary. Board member Roger Craig is running against Buchanan in the primary.

"Your next regular meeting isn't until after the election, so you had this meeting to discredit her," Bethel said. "Everything you discussed could have waited until then."

Board member Mike McKinnies said the timing of the board meeting had nothing to do with the primary election.

"These are problems that have been going on for at least a year and a half," McKinnies said.

Buchanan was not present at Wednesday's meeting.