Shepro continues dispute with Pierog over hiring outreach worker, demographer

Pierog: ‘This is a technical job, not a political job’

GENEVA – Kane County Board Chair Corinne Pierog and Board member Ken Shepro, R-Wayne, are expected to pick up where they left off last week – that is, disagreeing about the qualifications and choice of consultants to aid in the reapportionment of the county’s districts at a special County Board meeting Tuesday.

Counties do reapportionment every 10 years, based on U.S. Census data.

Shepro, who is Kane County Republican Party Chairman and vice chairman of the board, asserted that hiring Zach Koutsky of Berteau Consulting LLC and Josina Morita of Gapple LLC is unnecessary – and that the county board can draw its own boundaries with precinct maps and its own GIS data.

Pierog, a Democrat, responded that Koutsky has experience in outreach and would facilitate the town hall meetings to learn more about what the needs of minority areas and that Morita is a demographer whose expertise is recognized.

“We’re trying to get a gosh darn fair map so minority populations in majority districts are fairly represented and not so small that only two or three people can have a voice. There are maybe six minority districts we are looking at,” Pierog said.

Morita, with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and international race relations from Pitzer College and a master’s degree in urban planning and public policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago, is a commissioner for the Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. She also serves on the Illinois Racial Profiling and Data Oversight Board.

Special Assistant State’s Attorney Phillip Luetkehans, a Republican assisting in the reapportionment process, is “in sync” with Morita, Pierog said.

“We’ve got a strong attorney who happens to be a Republican,” Pierog said. “Then we have a demographer (Morita) who is highly qualified. They’re both professionals. Representing minority populations is critical. It’s not a Republican issue. It’s not a Democrat issue. We have to make sure our minority populations are represented (according to) the Voting Rights Act … This is what that woman’s (Morita’s) expertise is in. … This woman not only knows her stuff, she owns the stuff.”

But Shepro maintained their expertise is unnecessary.

“It’s not an issue of how they (minorities) are treated, but finding them and identifying the areas where they reside,” Shepro said, dismissing whatever outreach service Koutsky could provide.

And as to what Morita would bring to the table, Shepro said, “We don’t need a demographer to disclose that people are being racially profiled.”

The American Community Service data may be off by thousands, but will serve as good data with respect to identifying minority populations, Shepro said.

“We’ve already been given that data, down to the precinct level,” Shepro said. “There is no other data to work with other than that. … Redistricting is not about the needs of minority communities, it’s about their numbers and concentration.”

Ten years ago former Board Chairwoman Karen McConnaughay advocated hiring a demographer to assist in redistricting after the 2010 census, Shepro said.

“The board said, ‘We don’t need a demographer, we can do it ourselves’ and they did,” Shepro said. “Which really raises the question, why do we need a demographer now?”

Pierog defended hiring Koutsky do outreach for four town halls, though by state statute, the county is legally required to have only one.

“Instead, I want to reach out early on and find out what their needs are,” Pierog said.

Another issue for Shepro is that both Koutsky and Morita are Democrats.

Koutsky’s website lists his participation in Democratic causes, his political outreach in progressive and labor movements, and that he ran the campaign of Democrat State Treasurer Michael Frerichs.

Pierog disputes that partisanship has anything to do with her choice.

“This is a technical job, not a political job,” Pieorg said. “This is not about Republicans. This is not about Democrats.”

Besides, Pierog said it is within her authority as county board chair to make that choice.

While Shepro does not dispute her authority, he takes issue with it.

“You can’t divorce their background and experience from what they are bringing or the method in which they are selected,” Shepro said of Koutsky and Morita. “Just because someone has the authority, does not make it right to impose that authority to hire political people to do a technical job – with no opportunity for other people to be interviewed, considered or evaluated.”

Koutsky said at last week’s Reapportionment Task Force meeting, that he would be paid $30,000, which he would share with Morita, but so far, no contracts have been signed or approved.

The agenda for the special meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday includes a vote on how many districts and board members the county will have for the next 10 years; use of the American Community Survey data for the reapportionment because the federal census data is delayed; a budget adjustment to fund the Reapportionment Committee; and possibly filing a lawsuit over the reapportionment because the census data is late.