Madison County Board Republicans spar over new leadership role




  • In Business
  • 2022-08-18 01:52:22Z
  • By Belleville News-Democrat
 

The Madison County Board's move to take duties away from County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler came full circle Wednesday night when the board voted to name a new "chairperson pro tem."

Eric Foster, R-Granite City, was selected by his fellow board members by a vote of 18-8 to serve the position. He defeated Terry Eaker, R-Bethalto.

The position stems from a new ordinance approved this summer that allows the chairperson pro tem to oversee the appointment of the county administrator and department heads.

Foster noted that the full County Board would still have the final say on the appointments.

"This allows more transparency and more board involvement over the practices of retention, hiring and termination of county employees," Foster said after the meeting.

When the ordinance was debated last month, about 200 people attended a meeting to hear the discussion, including five who spoke on Prenzler's behalf to applause from a raucous crowd. This was in contrast to Wednesday night's meeting, which had a small audience.

Prenzler, a Republican, was first elected to the County Board chairman position in 2016 and was re-elected in 2020. Last month when the ordinance was approved, he said he was disappointed by the vote and disagreed with the board members' reasoning for it.

Prenzler said he didn't have a comment on Wednesday's vote for Foster.

He has said that the ordinance was proposed because he had supported a slate of candidates that won in the Republican primary on June 28 and that the candidates who lost the primary decided to change his duties. Prenzler said he supported John Janek, who defeated Foster in the primary.

Foster said the move to name a chairperson pro tem on the County Board had nothing to do with the June 28 primary results.

"We have debated this and wrestled with this decision for well over a year," Foster said. He also said "it's not a decision anyone wanted to make."

Foster said the ordinance is designed to have the board name a new chairperson pro tem after the November election.

He said the change gives the board "more oversight in what is going on in the county."

Foster said the County Board members need more information from county officials.

Board members would either not be informed about decisions or would be informed too late for them to deliberate the issue, Foster said.

"The County Board has lost confidence in its Chairman to advance a fiscally responsible future for the County," states a preamble to the ordinance approved last month. "It is the opinion of the County Board that the Chairman has exhibited chronically inept management, lack of communication or research on important issues relating to lowering property taxes, lack of attention to his job which decreases the quality of services paid for by taxpayers, and multiple disastrous personnel decisions which have cost the County millions of dollars in legal costs and settlements."

The ordinance states the County Board chairperson pro tem will work with the county administrator and county auditor to prepare a draft county budget.

Here's how board members voted on the motion for naming a chairperson pro tem on Wednesday:

Foster voted for himself along with the following other seven Republicans: Stacey Pace, Michael Walters, Aaron Messner, Denise Wiehardt, Jamie Goggin, Chris Guy and Erica Conway-Harriss.

Here are the 10 Democrats who voted for Foster: Liz Dalton, Michael "Doc" Holliday, Bill Stoutenborough, Bruce Malone, Robert Pollard, Matthew King, Christopher Hankins, Jack Minner, Nick Petrillo and Gussie Glasper.

Eaker voted for himself along with the following six other Republicans: Bill Meyer, Bobby Ross, Mick Madison, Michael Babcock, Ryan Kneedler and Dalton Gray.

Victor Valentine Jr. was the lone Democrat to vote for Eaker.

Republicans Valerie Doucleff and Judy Kuhn were absent.

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