SYCAMORE – A DeKalb County Board ad-hoc nominating committee responsible for selecting applicants for five seats on the DeKalb County Rehabilitation and Nursing Center oversight board met for the first time Thursday.
The ad-hoc nominating committee – seated by Republicans Savannah Ilenikhena and Kathy Lampkins, from Districts 5 and 2 and Democrats Christ Porterfield and Amber Quitno, from Districts 8 and 3 – has decided to invite a short list of applicants to attend another committee meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
DeKalb County officials said they received 21 applications for the five seats reserved for members of the public on the newly formed DeKalb County Rehabilitation and Nursing Center Oversight Board, and members of the nominating committee hope they can get face time with some of those applicants before they make a decision.
“I think it’s important at least to meet the individuals you’re nominating,” Ilenikhena said.
The DeKalb County Board formed the oversight board at the end of 2023 and gave it authority similar to the county’s departmental-level committees in order to carry out the functions and mission outlined in its bylaws.
On Jan. 17, when those bylaws were approved, four of the nine positions on the oversight board were approved to fill two-year terms expiring at the end of 2024 by the County Board.
Rukisha Crawford, a Democrat from District 6, was approved as the Health and Human Services Committee nominee for the oversight board. Jerry Osland, a Republican from District 12, was approved as the Finance and Administration Committee nominee. Rhonda Henke, a Republican from District 1, was approved for the at-large County Board member seat. Abdul El-Jaml, who goes by Brother, was approved to fill the resident council’s slot on the board.
Who will join them is still undecided. Applicants will need the approval of DeKalb County Board to make it onto the nursing center’s oversight board. The committee is hoping to be swayed by in-person meetings with applicants, officials said.
“I’m not even sure that we need to interview and ask questions, but more let them come and explain to us what their interest is in this,” Lampkins said. “I guess I don’t foresee us having a list of questions that we’re going to ask every person. Let them maybe come in and tell us about themselves. Sell me on you.”
Porterfield said he’d prefer not to interview the applicants, but was the only one on the nominating board with the opinion.
None of the 21 applicants attended the ad-hoc nominating committee meeting Thursday night. Some members of the public offered up suggestions to the committee, however.
Steve Duchrow of DeKalb said he recommends nominating Charlotte Hodder to the oversight board.
“Somebody who understands the federal and state regulations, and has the administrative record for up to 26 years, is exactly the type of thing the nursing home needs,” Duchrow said. “Nothing will get by that individual with anything regarding the nursing home.”
In July 2022, a staunchly divided DeKalb County Board voted to sell the DeKalb County Rehab and Nursing Center, 2600 N. Annie Glidden Road, to Illuminate HC for $8.3 million. At the time, officials said years of alleged mismanagement, delinquent billing and falling resident numbers created $7 million worth of county debt, necessitating the sale.
The sale contract failed in fall 2023, and is being litigated in DeKalb County Court, but that wasn’t the expectation when the County Board voted to initiate the sale. Now, members of the nominating committee are aware the people they selected will have a weighted influence over the direction of the county-owned nursing center, and they don’t want a repeat of the facilities recent history.
“I don’t want to ever – I don’t want to have to end up back where we were,” Quitno said. “This is a very specific skillset that we need on this oversight board, and I want to try and get it right.”