Vague accusations about Board of Review may bring closed session
URBANA — Champaign County Board members hope to go into closed session next month to review what for now are vague accusations about problems with the county's board of review.
The three-member board, made up of Democrats Wayne Williams and Laura Sandefur and Republican Steve Bantz, hears complaints from property owners about their property assessments. Originally the county board was to have voted Thursday night on two of the board of review positions, but the votes were deferred so that the full board could hear about what Champaign Democrat Alan Kurtz said was "information I've received that makes me compelled to want to replace all three" members.
Kurtz said the county board needs to go into executive session "so that we might give each and every member of this board" information "on exactly what has taken place here. I'm not going to expand on that information now."
Williams, the chairman of the board of review, said Friday that he was disappointed that only one of the 27 county board members had contacted him and that the obscure charge of problems came out publicly.
"If we were any other employee at the county, there wouldn't be a question as to the proper vein to discuss this. Any other employee, they would have automatically gone into executive session, as they have many times before," Williams said. "It's become clear we're not afforded the same protections as other employees. That's something we have to deal with, I guess."
Williams acknowledged problems at the board of review.
"Any organization can be improved. There's no such thing as a perfect organization, especially in government. I'm happy to have a conversation about how to improve the board of review," he said. "I'm aware there are county board complaints. But there is only one county board member who has talked to me directly about hearing complaints and that was (county board chairman) Pius Weibel."
At Thursday's meeting, Weibel nominated Williams for another term. He did not officially take a stand on Bantz although he had said earlier that he would not nominate him for another term.
"Certainly Mr. Williams has made mistakes in the last two years," Weibel said, adding that he believes Williams was placed into a "difficult situation," becoming chairman of the board of review on his first day.
"I think that says something about the environment he was placed in. I think he deserves another chance to learn more and become a better board of review member," Weibel said.
Accusations of problems at the board of review originated with Kurtz, who said he got his information from Stan Jenkins, the county's supervisor of assessments.
"The supervisor of assessments has a lot of information concerning the board of review. It concerned me and after major study, that's the reason I felt that the board of review should be replaced. All three," he said. "I feel that a fresh start needs to be made and accountability needs to be made at the board of review. I'm not pinpointing any single person."
Kurtz told county board members that he had discussed the problems with Jenkins for a total of five hours.
"Considering there's five hours of information out there and I've got five minutes' worth, there's got to be something else out there that I need to find out about," said Urbana Democrat Tom Betz, arguing for a closed session.
Jenkins said Friday he did not want to discuss the problems at the board of review.
Kurtz said discussing the problems in a closed session was imperative "so that the entire board can get all of the information. Obviously, there was a lot of confusion here tonight. Some were privy to all the information. Some were privy to some. It was piecemeal. I think it's important that each and every member have the opportunity to see what I saw.
"This is above politics. This is above party. This is above gender. This is above any other concerns. This has to do with performance, period.
Board of review members receive $35,992 a year for what is considered a four-day-a-week schedule that allows them to have other jobs. Their work schedule varies during the year with the requirement that they be in the office five days a week from August through December but with much less office time from March through May.