Tensions rise on Will County Board over picking new school superintendent
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org
Will County Board Chairman Jim Moustis speaks with the SouthtownStar Editorial Board Thursday, July 5, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Also Tuesday, Board committees:
Postponed consideration of two controversial zoning cases to the Feb. 11 land use committee meeting. Boughton Materials Inc. is seeking a zoning change and special permit for a concrete recycling facility at its quarry at 22750 W. Hassert Blvd. in Wheatland Township. And Leonard McEnery is seeking special use permits for Lenny’s Gas N Wash, a car wash/gas station proposed for 194th and Harlem Avenue in Frankfort Township.
Learned that a $1.7 million payment from one of the county’s insurers will reimburse the county for a portion of a civil judgment paid to Kevin and Melissa Fox after Kevin Fox was wrongfully accused of murdering his daughter, Riley. The insurance company had balked at paying attorney fees on the case. The county sued the insurer in federal court and won.
Postponed consideration of a request by the sheriff’s department to spend $402,000 from the overweight truck fine fund on 14 new squad cars and two administrative vehicles. Finance committee chairman Steve Wilhelmi (D-Joliet) said perhaps money from the fund should be used to cover the department’s budget shortfall instead. Republican Caucus chairman Jim Moustis (R-Frankfort Township) said the committee also should review the sheriff’s entire 330-vehicle fleet before making the decision. “Who has vehicles and are they all necessary?” Moustis asked.
Approved buying a 40-foot-long “tactical intervention vehicle” using $675,000 in federal grants. Sheriff’s department officials said the vehicle will be used as a command vehicle during disasters and SWAT-type events. The vehicle — which will house weapons, ammunition, robots, cameras and communications equipment — is being built now and is expected to be delivered in September.
Will County Board Speaker Herb Brooks Jr. bristled Tuesday when the Republican caucus chairman accused Democrats of staging a “dog and pony show” to name a new regional superintendent of schools.
Caucus Chairman Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort Township, said Democrats should either work through the county board committee system to choose a replacement, or they should have County Executive Larry Walsh nominate someone because it’s a political appointment.
“Don’t give me the dog and pony show,” Moustis said when he heard that Democrats were setting up a separate advisory committee to screen candidates. “Just do what you want.”
Brooks, D-Joliet, who replaced Moustis as the overall leader on the board in December, took exception to the remark.
“It implied that we were doing something illegal or underhanded,” Brooks said after the meeting. “... We have state statute and the state’s attorney’s office that advised us how to handle this, and we’re doing it openly and we’re doing it publicly and we’re doing it legally.”
The situation could become a bit complicated because Walsh’s son Shawn Walsh is the assistant regional superintendent of schools. If he wants the job, his father would have to be the one to nominate him.
Brooks said if Shawn Walsh applies for the regional superintendent job, his credentials will be reviewed along with any others. All applicants have to have a “Type 75” administrative certification.
“Whoever is the best person for the job should have the job,” Brooks said. “And I don’t think there is a delicacy because the person’s last name is Walsh.”
Shawn Walsh could not be reached for comment.
The regional superintendent vacancy will be created when incumbent Regional Supt. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood, is sworn in Wednesday as a state senator for the 49th District.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Joe Babich, D-Joliet, who chairs the board’s public health and safety committee, said retired school superintendents are being sought to serve on the advisory screening committee.
The superintendents can be Republicans, Democrats or Independents, Babich said.
The committee will scrutinize credentials and recommend a candidate to Larry Walsh, who will forward a name to the county board for a vote. The county board has 60 days after Bertino-Tarrant’s resignation to vote on a replacement.
Because Bertino-Tarrant is a Democrat, her replacement must be a Democrat.
Babich said retired superintendents who are interested in serving on the advisory committee should contact Nick Palmer, Larry Walsh’s chief of staff, at email@example.com.