The battle between McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks and Recorder Joe Tirio continues to brew.
The latest shot arrived this past week in the form of a news release from Franks' office, calling for "increased scrutiny" of Tirio's spending of dollars out of the recorder's automation fund – a surplus of about $2.4 million.
“The $2.4 million surplus was accumulated by overcharging people, plain and simple,” Franks said in a statement included in the release – a document that berates Tirio for “significant increases in recording fees” for next year. “[That] surplus adds up to about three years’ worth of fees.”
Tirio defended his office.
“I reject Chairman Franks’ news release and regard it as a bit of disappointing political propaganda,” Tirio said in a statement. “My fee proposal was prepared with the advice of the State’s Attorney’s Office to comply fully with a confusing and flawed, in my opinion, statute.”
“Several courageous whistleblowers” helped Franks discover Tirio had spent money from the fund on “expensive, private transport to and from the airport, raffle tickets and a visit to a convention that was held in a casino.”
In February 2017, Tirio took two trips to and from the airport with a company called Route 47 Transportation Services Inc. – journeys that cost a total of $211, according to records obtained by the Northwest Herald.
Former McHenry County Auditor Pam Palmer approved the taxi ride, Tirio said. The raffle tickets – still wrapped in plastic in a drawer in the recorder’s office – are used in case of disaster as temporary document numbers.
Regarding the convention visit, “I have no control over where conventions are held,” Tirio said. “I don’t gamble.”
In an interview with the Northwest Herald, Franks said the large surplus in Tirio’s office suggests “a culture of secrecy.”
“The average citizen has no idea it exists. You have to look through the treasurer’s monthly report to find the surplus,” Franks said. “The only person who signs off is the auditor. That’s too much power for any one elected official to have.”
Tirio brushed off the attack about the surplus.
“My monthly report complies with statute,” he said.