By a narrow party-line vote, the Madison County Board approved a resolution March 15 to resolve questions over the legality of a Dec. 5 special meeting.
The resolution addresses a reorganizational meeting when newly elected County Board members were sworn into office. County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler allowed former board member Stephen Adler to conduct the meeting because of Adler’s familiarity with the board’s procedures. But Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons has said Adler lacked the authority to preside over the meeting and advised the board to re-seat county office-holders to legitimize its actions taken since Dec. 5.
The resolution — passed by a 15-11 vote, with two members absent and Trenton Republican Judy Kuhn abstaining — lists three County Board findings about the Dec. 5 meeting:
• Prenzler’s actions Dec. 5 meet the definition of “presiding” in the county ordinance governing board meetings.
• The Credentials Committee report validating the seating of new members was properly submitted and approved.
• Board members were properly elected, seated and sworn in by the county clerk.
The resolution states that if any part of the county’s ordinance is found to be inconsistent with the resolution’s findings, the ordinance will be amended retroactively to make it consistent with the resolution.
During discussion, Granite City Democrat Michael Parkinson said the resolution does not follow the county’s rule for amending ordinances.
“This is in violation of our own ordinances,” he said. “This is illegal.”
Parkinson filed a lawsuit Feb. 15, listed as an open case in the Third Judicial Circuit, alleging the board’s Government Relations Committee violated the state’s Open Meetings Act by posting a Feb. 6 meeting agenda that lacked an adequate explanation of the resolution. After Parkinson filed the lawsuit, the committee posted a March 6 agenda that attached the resolution to the agenda.
Parkinson and other Democrats said they wanted the board to have a choice between the resolution and Gibbons’ recommended solution, which involved the board passing a resolution drafted by Gibbons’ office. But Republicans said it’s time for the board to move on to more substantive issues.
“All this bickering is not helping the people of Madison County,” Kuhn said.
In an interview, Gibbons said he believes his recommended solution was a “cautious, well-researched method and legal course to take that would have put the board, I believe, in the best legal position.”
But he said his office will defend the board’s actions regardless.
“The state’s attorney’s job, like any attorney, is to advise our client, to give them what we believe is the best advice available and the best recommendations available, but it’s always the client’s decision as to how to proceed,” he said. “The State’s Attorney’s Office will do everything in our power to defend the decision of the board, to defend the work of this board and to always take every possible step to protect the citizens of Madison County and their representatives.”
Prenzler said his friend and political ally, former Madison County state’s attorney Don Weber, helped draft the resolution. A copy was emailed to Gibbons’ office prior to the resolution being placed on the Government Relations Committee’s agenda, Prenzler said.
Since the beginning of the controversy, Prenzler has contended the Dec. 5 meeting was valid.
“Personally, I didn’t feel a resolution was even necessary,” he said. “And I will add, too, that if someone would like to bring up another resolution, they’re free to do that in the future.”
In other action:
• By an 18-8 vote, with Bethalto Republican Tom McRae abstaining, the board appointed Kristen Poshard as community development director. Poshard previously served under 19 county boards in workforce and community development, grant-writing and housing rehabilitation.
She has been working for the county as chief deputy administrator since December.
“She sets the tone of teamwork in her department,” Highland Republican Philip Chapman said. “She makes her staff available to us and leads by example.”
The board also appointed Marc B. McLemore, a sheriff’s department captain and director of courthouse security, to the Emergency Telephone System Board.
• The board approved park grants through the sales tax-funded Metro East Park and Recreation District. The grants will go to Bethalto, $47,900; Edwardsville, $133,155; Foster Township, $20,135; Godfrey, $90,625; Madison, $19,575; Roxana Park District $15,000; Wood River Township, $33,195; Alton, $138,655; Chouteau Township, $20,975; East Alton, $31,480; Edwardsville Township, $15,000; Glen Carbon, $64,790; Granite City Park District, $150,950; Hartford, $15,000; Nameoki Township, $22,135; Pontoon Beach, $28,825; South Roxana, $15,000; and Wood River, $53,150.
The county disbursed approximately $1.3 million in grant funds.