Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of this story on Tuesday afternoon that corrects an error originally reported on Monday.
The vice chair of the Kane County Board wants an independent investigation into the events leading up to a $46,000 separation agreement between Treasurer Chris Lauzen and a longtime employee of the office.
And there may be bipartisan support for that call.
Lauzen approved the separation agreement earlier this month, ending Carrollyn Brady’s 17-year tenure with the treasurer’s office. She had reached the position of director of financial operations for the office. Because his office has internal control, county board approval was not required.
In the lead-up to his election as treasurer last year, Lauzen frequently criticized the investment returns the office had achieved. Brady oversaw those investments as part of her job. Her last day was May 1.
Vern Tepe, the vice chair of the county board, said during a recent committee meeting there are many unanswered questions surrounding Brady’s departure.
“What really happened?” Tepe asked. “Was this employee targeted for dismissal by the treasurer? Has the treasurer committed malfeasance of office? Is this a continuing pattern of abuse by an individual? Is this yet another instance where (Lauzen) is accused of harassment, intimidation and demotion? Regardless, this is despicable behavior.”
Tepe then called for the appointment of an outside counsel to investigate. Tepe said he doesn’t believe the Kane County state’s attorney’s office could be impartial, as it serves as the legal representation for the treasurer, county board and all its employees during official business.
Lauzen is legally bound to say Brady and the county “voluntarily, mutually and amicably parted ways.”
And any implication to the contrary, he said, amounts to “false accusations.”
Citing “inaccurate information” in “gossip” about the situation based on security camera footage of an interaction, he denied ever berating, yelling at or pushing Brady.
“In 10 years here, there has been plenty to yell about, but I have not yelled,” Lauzen said. “I don’t yell. The idea that I could push someone — anybody who believes that, there’s nothing I could say that would change that person’s mind.”
The county released a video dated Jan. 24 that shows Lauzen walking down a hallway behind Brady. The Shaw Local News Network obtained the video in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. At one point, Lauzen is seen walking up behind her, faster than her. He lifts his hand and seems to lightly touch her back as he passes on the left.
Brady briefly veers right, before they both continue straight, the video shows. Lauzen ultimately enters another room, while Brady stops before that entrance and another woman who had been farther behind approaches but soon turns right off the hallway. Then the video clip ends.
It was unclear whether they spoke to each other during the interaction because their faces were pointed away from the camera and there was no audio.
“Was there any (pushing)? There was not,” Lauzen said.
In an email response seeking comment about the video, Lauzen stated that Brady had come to his office to tell him the outside auditors stopped by for an introductory courtesy call.
“I followed her out of my office, passed her on the left, went out the entrance to shake hands and talk,” Lauzen’s email stated.
He provided a second video of the same scene from another perspective, showing him greeting the auditors.
“Security camera videos from two different perspectives ... show a fair viewer that there was no argument, no yelling and no pushing,” Lauzen’s email stated. “They smiled, I smiled and the video shows that the former director was smiling.”
Brady also did not respond to voicemail messages seeking comment.
A Democrat from Elgin, Tepe has long been a critic of the Republican Lauzen, dating back to Lauzen’s tenure as county board chair. During that time, Lauzen had public fallouts with two female employees.
It began with the public resignation of Cheryl Maraffio, a community outreach coordinator. When she left, Maraffio sent a letter to the board saying she left “due to an obvious, significant lack of professional courtesy and respect for me, my work, and my commitment to Kane County.”
Lauzen denied any wrongdoing.
Later, the county board signed off on a six-figure severance package for Sheila McCraven, the longtime executive director of human resources. That deal came after McCraven filed a federal complaint claiming Lauzen engaged in a pattern of “harassment, intimidation and demotion.”
Lauzen again denied wrongdoing.
After McCraven’s departure, Lauzen worked with a new human resources executive director to change the grievance procedures for employees who believe they were unfairly disciplined or terminated. That executive director, Sylvia Wetzel, was fired after Lauzen left office as county board chair.
Lauzen suggested Tepe’s public questions this week were motivated by politics. But county board member Anita Lewis — a Democrat elected with Lauzen’s backing — agreed the situation needs further examining.
“I have been a little concerned about reading about this thing,” Lewis said. “You get half information. I listen to Mr. Tepe. I listen to our treasurer. I would like to look at the tape. I would like to look at the documents.”
Tepe said he will continue to push for the outside investigation. He will next take his suggestion to the county board’s Human Services Committee, which isn’t scheduled to meet until June 14.