Embarrassing error in Kane County's union contracts to stand

Effort to rescind could not muster 2/3 majority

GENEVA – The Kane County Board could not muster enough votes at a special meeting March 21 intended to rescind three union contracts to correct an error.

Chairman Chris Lauzen brought the issue forward with a resolution that acknowledged a board action in December that approved five union contracts.

At issue was the county’s contracts for salaries for employees of the county clerk, health department and workforce development, all represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The offers that the unions ratified was more generous than what had been approved by the county board.

The contract the unions approved was for three years, which is not what the board members approved.

Instead of 2 percent raises in each year for four years, they will be getting a 4 percent raise in the first year because of a 2 percent raise followed by another 2 percent raise 10 days later, followed by two years of a a 2 percent raise, Lauzen said.

“For just the five contracts, the costs are $124,700,” Lauzen said. “And that triggers the ‘Me Too’ clauses, for non-union parity and fairness, for non-union employees as well as our union employees … treating everybody equally who works for the county. It’s the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Board member Mohammad "Mo" Iqbal, D-Elgin, said the attorney who helped negotiate the contracts had assured the board that the information was correct when they voted in December.

“I had my doubts, but I voted regardless, on the advice of counsel,” Iqbal said. “There was an error. I don’t blame anyone. But the acceptance must mirror the offer. In this case, it does not.”

Lauzen said the error was embarrassing but “the only thing more embarrassing than making an error is not correcting the error once it is found.”

But Board member Angela Thomas, D-Aurora, was not so forgiving.

“Someone needs to be fired,” Thomas said. “Was there no one to recognize this was not right? … That is unacceptable.”

Board member Monica Silva, D-Aurora, said AFSCME has told the county that they are not going to renegotiate this contract.

Board member Myrna Molina, D-Aurora, said since the county spent $50,000 on legal fees for a year of negotiating the contract, rescinding it would cost more than that.

The board voted 11-9 to rescind the three AFSCME contracts, with four members absent.

But after Assistant State’s Attorney Joe Lulves took a break to consult with another assistant state’s attorney, Michele Niermann, on Roberts Rules, he reported back that it required a two-thirds majority vote of the entire county board – or 13 votes – to approve, so the motion to rescind failed.

But even the five-minute break Lulves asked for to research Roberts Rules resulted in a disagreement.

“Can you give an opinion on something this important in five minutes?” Lauzen asked.

“Yes,” Lulves said.

“What happens if you’re wrong?” Lauzen asked. “OK, Joe, you have your five minutes.”

After Lulves reported back that the measure had failed, Lauzen said, “We accept what the States’ Attorney’s Office says here. We need to figure out a way to appeal.”

County Board member Drew Frasz, R-Elburn, who serves on the Labor Management Committee, said he hoped the board would have voted to rescind the three contracts.

“Then both parties would go back to the negotiating table,” Frasz said. “Speaking for myself, I would be willing to make some concessions to them for the fact that we did make this mistake and be sensitive to the ‘me too’ clause that these things roll over into already negotiated contracts.”