GENEVA – Whether the head of Kane County’s Information Technologies department properly disclosed that he was recommending his wife for a job as a temporary county employee from March to May 2021 has become a recent source of contention among top-ranking elected officials.
On one side, Auditor Penny Wegman said she stands behind her office’s report earlier this year that found IT Executive Director Roger Fahnestock did not properly disclose the relationship.
On the other, Kane County Chair Corinne Pierog and State’s Attorney Jamie Mosser said jointly that there was nothing to disclose because everyone involved already knew Suzanne Fahnestock was married to Roger Fahnestock.
“This matter has been reviewed by the State’s Attorney’s Office,” a recent statement from Pierog and Mosser asserted. “No violation of county policy or Ethics Code provision occurred in connection with the hiring or employment of this temporary worker.”
Pierog approved hiring Suzanne Fahnestock as a temporary worker in February 2021 to help open the COVID-19 mass vaccination site in Batavia.
According to the audit, Suzanne Fahnestock was paid $15,901 for 311.15 hours at $50.40 per hour, as well as $75.60 per hour for 8.5 hours of overtime.
Contrary to Wegman’s audit, Roger Fahnestock did not need to disclose his relationship with his wife to Human Resources because he told those involved in the hiring and they already knew she was his wife, Pierog and Mosser said in an April 29 statement in response to Wegman’s Feb. 28 supplemental audit report about temporary workers and news coverage from the Kane County Chronicle.
“The family relationship between the temporary worker (Suzanne Fahnestock) and the Kane County employee (Roger Fahnestock) was well known and fully disclosed to the chairman and the building management department executive director (Christopher Allen) before the person was interviewed and ultimately hired through the Salem Group Employment Agency,” according to the statement.
Wegman’s audit cites the county’s ethics ordinance, which states that “no officer may approve, recommend or otherwise take action with regard to the appointment, reappointment, hiring, promotion salary or supervision of a family member.”
“Officers and employees shall fully disclose the existence of any relationship to a family member who is an officer or employee of the county at the time of election or employment,” according to the ethics ordinance.
“While the relationship may have been known to some, in discussions with Human Resources, they were not aware and also unaware of when departments hire temporary workers,” Wegman said in an email.
Her audit highlights “significant policy gaps in the use of ‘temporary employee’ contracts in Kane County.”
“There is currently not a policy regarding relationship disclosure for contract workers that are employed through a staffing agency,” Wegman said.
The audit states all departments using temporary employees are now in compliance by listing who requests the temporary employee and the job classification on the invoice.
Wegman said in an email response that the Salem Group audit “includes factual information only.”
“I cannot speak on behalf of the State’s Attorney or the County Board Chair,” Wegman said in a telephone interview. “I can only speak about the information I found and provide it to the residents of Kane County. My report is accurate. I stand behind it.”
The joint statement from Pierog and Mosser also said that Roger Fahnestock “was never involved in supervising” his wife or approving her time sheets and that it was Allen who “reviewed and approved the temporary worker’s time sheets.”
Wegman’s Salem Group audit did not state that Roger Fahnestock supervised his wife or approved her time sheets.
Instead, the audit stated Allen had no direct supervision of Suzanne Fahnestock, he was not aware of any actual work she performed and Roger Fahnestock directed him to approve and sign off on 11 invoices to pay her, totaling $15,901.
In their statement, Pierog and Mosser contradicted the audit, stating instead that the temporary worker “was assigned to the building management department, where she worked collaboratively with the executive director (Allen) to open, promote and maintain Kane County’s vaccination sites.”
Their statement also contradicts Pierog’s explanation last month that Suzanne Fahnestock worked in Pierog’s office to set up the mass vaccination centers and to send out news releases about them.
“Roger hired his wife through Chris,” Pierog had said. “I was witness to that, without question.”
Pierog’s and Mosser’s statement also does not address that when Wegman requested a job description for Suzanne Fahnestock from Salem Group, Allen, Roger Fahnestock and Pierog’s office, none could be provided, as stated in the audit.
Pierog said in March that there was a job description, but did not know where it was located. Pierog and Mosser did not include a job description for Suzanne Fahnestock in their joint statement.
“The Kane County Auditor’s office identified a need to update the county’s policies regarding temporary workers and has further recommended that the hiring requirements and procedures for temporary workers be consistent with county requirements for regular full-time workers,” according to the joint statement. “Those recommendations are currently under review by the Kane County Human Services Committee.”
Wegman’s email said the county has a great need “for internal policy change and updates.”
“While we have identified a need for the county to create a temporary worker policy, it needs to be clear that departments be held accountable to the new policy as to not allow these ‘loopholes’ to take place any longer,” Wegman’s email said. “We will continue to advocate for transparency on behalf of the taxpayers of Kane County and provide them with as much information as possible.”
Regarding the statement from Mosser and Pierog, Wegman’s email said, “I have not been involved in the discussions between the County Board, County Board Chair and State’s Attorney related to the matter, as I have not been asked to be involved with them.”