Tazewell County Board to vote on censuring county clerk for staff pay raises

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PEKIN, Ill. — Tazewell County board members are raising concerns about the work of county clerk John Ackerman.

On Dec. 1, 2019, Ackerman gave his employees $100,000 worth of raises. Some board members said they believed the move was a misuse of funds. Wednesday night at 6 p.m. in Tazewell County Justice Center’s community room, the board will vote whether to formally censure Ackerman.

Ackerman said nothing he has done is illegal.

“I have utilized the funding provided to me by the Tazewell County Board for payment to my employees, as well as fee fund revenue available to me by Illinois state statutes,” Ackerman told WMBD on Tuesday. “Furthermore, as outlined in S-426, ‘The County Board cannot itemize the salary of each individual employee of county-elected officials.

And while county chairman David Zimmerman said the actions were not illegal, Ackerman broke the Board’s trust and actions should be taken.

John Ackerman

“We don’t have a lot of control because he spent it from fee funds,” Zimmerman said. “This is one of our ways of expressing our deep displeasure in what he did and how he’s obligated the county literally hundreds of thousands of dollars. To my knowledge, this is the first county-wide elected official ever to be censured in Tazewell County.”

Ackerman said the raises are between 18-62% and that he believes the Board is exaggerating.

“The censure claims that I ‘purposefully and knowingly withheld his intention’ to give these raises,” Ackerman said. “However, the fact is, I had lengthy discussions with the finance committee chairman, human resource committee chairman, and county administrator for over six months before implementing the pay increase.”

He said the 18% raises are taking deputy clerks from an average of $14.50 an hour to $16.50 an hour; the 62% increase was for an individual who was moved to a management position as election supervisor, a reclassified position.

Zimmerman said he believes this will hurt the county’s budget moving forward.

“Where this puts us into financial peril is, John doesn’t have enough money in his budget even to pay the salaries he has this year,” Zimmerman said. “And then going out into future years, he’s spending fee funds. The money will run out so it’s not sustainable.”

Zimmerman says these raises will hurt the County in the upcoming years.

“Where does that money come from in the future?  Does it come from layoffs in his office?  Do we cut salaries?” Zimmerman said.

What even is a formal censure? It’s basically just a formal disapproval of a deed someone did.

“It doesn’t mean much, Matt.  It’s the only resource we really have as a board, short of actually taking John to court and suing him,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman adds the $100,000 raise to all his employees isn’t the first time Ackerman has used fee funds.

“John has used the fee funds to spend 45-thousand dollars to remodel his office, buy newspaper subscriptions and funeral flowers then he spends an additional 100-thousand dollars on raises.  The money’s not there, it is right now, but it’s just not a sustainable thing he’s trying here,” Zimmerman said.

“Some of it is for the operation of his office, some of it is for automation upgrades.  So if you’re gonna get a computer upgrade, this is a mechanism the state has given counties to work and say ‘okay in five years we’re gonna buy a new computer system that’s going to cost X number of dollars, an elected official can plan for that and collect those fees,” Zimmerman added.

When asked if Zimmerman believes Ackerman is misusing taxpayers’ funds, here was his response.

“Most definitely.  Without question.  He hasn’t done anything illegal, but when I see what he’s spent some of his fee funds on, it gives me great pause,” Zimmerman said.

In the Tazewell County Board Executive Committee’s report, which will be presented to the full Board Wednesday night, it claims Ackerman entered into a sidebar agreement with the Teamsters Union.

“The Tazewell County Clerk entered into a sidebar agreement with the Teamsters Union for these wage increases without the approval of the Tazewell County Board and the sidebar agreement was not followed as there were no formal position evaluations conducted and the raises were given arbitrarily.”

Tazewell County Executive Committee Report

Ackerman says there’s no violation with the sidebar agreement.

“The Censure also claims I entered into a “sidebar agreement with Teamsters Union… without the approval of the Tazewell County Board.” Approval was not asked because approval was not needed or required. As an independently elected County Official, the State Statutes give me internal control over the operations of my office, including negotiations with the Teamsters Union. Further to the idea that the County Board had no voice concerning the sidebar agreement as I had invited them to participate in the meetings concerning this agreement.

John C. Ackerman | Tazewell County Clerk

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