GOP primary key in shaping fractured Palatine Township board
Between disagreements over salaries, road district budgets and seemingly simple policies, Palatine Township officials don't often reach a consensus.
Tuesday's Republican primary election is, in a way, a reflection of that discord with 18 candidates -- 11 of them vying for four open trustee seats -- believing they can best lead the board.
"It's been a very argumentative board that fights over teeny, tiny things," said Supervisor Linda Fleming, one of two candidates for that position. "This has been an interesting campaign, that's for sure."
The candidates are divided into three slates, with the exception of incumbent Clerk Lisa Moran, who's running alone.
Since the general election in April features just one Democrat, trustee candidate Dexter Stokes, Tuesday's primary essentially shapes the board. It will narrow down the pool of trustee candidates from 11 to four. The winners will be placed on the April 9 ballot with Stokes.
The township serves about 112,000 residents in all or parts of Palatine, Hoffman Estates, Inverness, Schaumburg, Barrington and Arlington Heights.
Fleming, seeking her third, 4-year term, is leading the Palatine Republican Township Team along with Highway Commissioner John Powers and Trustee Vince Farina. Newcomers Chris Adrian, John Mathias and Debbie McGuire are running for trustee on the slate. Assessor Terry Kelly is unopposed.
Touting why she should be re-elected, Fleming said she inherited a $500,000 deficit eight years ago and balanced the budget the last six years. She also pointed to the expanded food pantry, which serves 350 families a month, up from about 40 families when she took over.
She also disputes opponent Sharon Langlotz-Johnson's charge that Fleming's team resists change.
Langlotz-Johnson's slate, Doing Things Better for Palatine Township, includes Trustees Art Goes and Bill Huley, Kathy Allegretti for clerk, Tom Kaider for highway commissioner and newcomers Kevin McGrane and Bill Pohlman for trustee.
In addition to pledging members will serve no more than two terms at a given position, Doing Things Better members say they'll forgo any taxpayer-funded pension and have put the issue of Fleming's pension front and center.
Fleming was a longtime Palatine Township Elementary District 15 transportation employee until her recent retirement. Langlotz-Johnson said that while trustees withdrew from the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund in 2010, acknowledging they didn't annually work the 1,000 hours required to participate, Fleming stayed on until her retirement from District 15, allowing her to start collecting a combined pension.
She argues Fleming is "double-dipping" by collecting her supervisor's salary on top of the pension.
"It's suspect timing," Langlotz-Johnson said.
Moran, who's seeking a second term as clerk, notes that she refused a pension, and that the incumbent members of Doing Things Better had to sign off on her request.
Fleming responded that IMRF's audit of hours in 2010 focused only on the trustees because the supervisor's position was one of four offices that could warrant working 1,000 hours or more. She said she contacted IMRF several times in the past year about voluntarily withdrawing but was told she couldn't. In November, she physically went to IMRF's offices and was given the proper form to withdraw.
Seeking election on a third slate, Responsible Republicans for Palatine Township, are trustee candidates Kevin O'Connell, the former township clerk, and newcomers Jason Hillenbrand and Julie Johnson. They refer to themselves as the "real fiscal conservatives," claiming other candidates' actions haven't lived up to their rhetoric.
O'Connell specifically pointed to Langlotz-Johnson's group, which includes three of the board's five voting members. He said they're responsible for additional legal fees through a "frivolous" petition objection in December.
"Look, they have a majority vote on the board," O'Connell said. "Why are they telling us about stopping waste now? What have they been doing for the last four years?"
Fleming said cost-saving measures touted by the Doing Things Better slate, such as finding a cheaper long-distance phone plan and bidding out the township cemeteries' landscaping, were already in the works by township staff.
If elected, Langlotz-Johnson's slate said it would try to cut spending by 5 percent through efficiency measures such as transitioning certain management roles to avoid overtime and ensuring retirement benefits are given only to full-time employees.
"The township is extremely stagnant, and we want to expand programs to serve more people," she said. "We're going to push common sense spending that people are already doing in their own homes."
Responsible Republicans, in the meantime, point to the estimated $125,000 cost of the taxpayer-funded primary and believe the Republican Party should instead pay for its own caucus. The decision to hold a primary was made by township Committeeman Aaron Del Mar, who's backing Langlotz-Johnson's slate.
O'Connell, Hillenbrand and Johnson pledged to not raise the township's share of property taxes and, if elected, say they'll rescind recent pay raises for trustees.