Tazewell County Clerk responds to County Board voting to formally censure him

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PEKIN, Ill. — The Tazewell County Clerk and Tazewell County Board are facing off Wednesday night after the County Board announced it will vote to formally censure County Clerk John Ackerman.

WMBD reported this first on Tuesday, you can find comments from the County Chairman and County Clerk here. The board wants to censure Ackerman for giving raises to his employees, among other things.

Ackerman tells WMBD this censure vote is just a political stunt by the County Board.

Board members have raised concerns about Ackerman giving his employees more than $100,000 worth of raises.

Ackerman isn’t denying he gave his employees raises, but presented date showing he spent less than $90,000 worth of raises. $89,804 to be exact. One employee was moved to a management position, going from $20.45 an hour to a salary position, now making $63,000 a year.

Two other full-time employees went from around $23 an hour to $26 an hour, five employees went from between $16-20 an hour all to $21.75 an hour.

An additional four full-time employees went from around $15 an hour to $16 an hour.

The Board adds Ackerman had other extravagant expenses, but Ackerman says they aren’t telling the whole story.

“The cost of the remodeling was 45-thousand dollars, 62 percent of it was paid by the federal government. That’s because the federal government came in and did a comprehensive assessment of the security of our office and identified physical security as one of our biggest shortcomings. Therefore they provided to pay for 62% of the remodeling. Of that remaining cost, the County Board voted to spend $5,000. Less than $5,000 came from my fee fund. The rest came from revenue we saved in last year’s budget,” Ackerman said.

“Anybody who files a land deed, the state of Illinois has allowed the County Clerk to have this fee fund so they can offset that expense. Because you have to realize, when you file a deed with me, it also is impacting the state and the federal government,” Ackerman said.

Ackerman said he spent $100,000 in 2019 to digitalize records going back a decade. He adds the revenue was available, and that’s what it is supposed to be used for.

When asked if the fee fund is sustainable, here is Ackerman’s response.

“The fee fund has quite a bit of longevity to it, there isn’t an issue with that running out,” Ackerman said.

Ackerman says his fee fund comes from birth and death certificates, along with marriage licenses, not from taxpayers’ wallets.

“The general fund is drawing its money directly from property taxes, and that’s it. Where my fee funds come from services that we provide,” Ackerman said.

So what does a formal censure even mean? It’s not a very common thing at all, but Assistant Professor of Political Science at Bradley University Dr. Megan Remmel says it doesn’t mean much.

“It’s something basically to go in your permanent record, if you will. There’s sort of a reputational cost to it, there’s no actual legal backing to it. This happens at various levels of government, it’s basically just saying ‘we don’t approve of what you did,” Dr. Remmel said.

Dr. Remmel adds the censure can be used as a campaigning message by an opponent in an election.

“It’s something that in an election, an opponent can bring up in an election, and can point out to voters that you have been censured. It may be a sign you don’t ‘play well with others,’ but it doesn’t have any legal authority behind it,” Dr. Remmel added.

“By default, because a censure is not legally binding, there’s no real cost to the party that’s bringing the party that’s bringing the censure motion. If it fails, it fails, but you didn’t lose as much face as you could’ve if you tried to formally remove somebody from office or took them to court for something,” Dr. Remmel said.

The Tazewell County Board meeting is at 6:00 p.m. Wednesday in the Justice Center’s Community Room, located at 101 S Capitol St in Pekin.

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