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Kendall to discuss doing away with per diems

Kendall County Per Diem Committee Chairman Amy Cesich talks other
committee members during this week's meeting.| Steve Lord~Sun-Times Media

Kendall County Per Diem Committee Chairman Amy Cesich talks to other committee members during this week's meeting.| Steve Lord~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 28, 2014 8:46AM

Kendall County Board members will discuss eliminating per diems as compensation, and taking only a salary.

The Ad Hoc Per Diem Committee this week voted to send that discussion to the board’s Committee of the Whole meeting at 4 p.m. March 13 in the County Board Room at the county building, 111 W. Fox St. in Yorkville.

A consensus of the five Per Diem Committee members was that making compensation salary only was worth discussing.

“It seems like a no-brainer to me to go to straight salary and move on,” said committee member Scott Gryder. “We just spent two years and much money sorting out per diems. It makes sense at this point.”

Committee member Lynn Cullick said she “couldn’t agree more.”

“If we take per diems off the table, we take the margin of error off the table,” she said.

That margin of error is what has caused the almost two-year investigation of per diem use by six former and five current board members. The investigation by a forensic auditor and a Kendall County grand jury looked at per diem and mileage claims for about a 3½-year period ending in the middle of 2012.

The Per Diem Committee was formed by County Board Chairman John Shaw because of that investigation. His original charge was for the committee to look at how compensation could be changed or tightened to avoid future problems.

The committee’s role expanded when board members voted to have the committee decide on whether or not the board should collect money from board members for per diems or mileage that might have been taken wrongly, or mistakenly.

The thought was that if the full board voted on the situation, five members, or half the board, would have to recuse itself because they were subjects of the investigation. The five current board members who were not subjects of the investigation are the members of the Per Diem Committee.

This week, the committee voted on more than 500 meetings involving per diem and mileage claims by the 11 people in the investigation. Committee members voted to send demand letters and take collection actions to recover money paid to the board members in 15 separate categories that were delineated by the investigation.

For the future, committee members said the entire board should discuss what happens next. Although all five committee members said they could support a salary, they did not send it to the Committee of the Whole as a recommendation.

Two committee members, Chairman Amy Cesich and Judy Gilmour, said they could see continuing with a combination of per diems and a salary, but increasing the salary and reducing what per diems are allowed for.

Right now, board members get a salary of $200 a month, and an $85 per diem for meetings.

Cesich said keeping per diems would reward board members who do more work. Under a straight salary, board members would make the same regardless of how much work they do.

“I lean more toward increasing the base salary … and have per diems for just the 11 [standing] committees,” she said.

Board members said they also would be fine with taking county-paid health insurance “off the table” for board members, and taking away mileage claimed for travel within the county. They seemed to agree on keeping mileage for business travel outside the county.

Right now, board members can choose to take the insurance or not. A survey showed that seven board members do take insurance, at a cost of roughly between about $8,000 up to about $14,000 a year a member, and three do not.

Committee members said they would be fine with allowing board members to buy into the county health insurance plan.

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