URBANA — The vacant Champaign County Board seat in District 11 will remain vacant a bit longer.
In a special meeting Tuesday night, the board rejected the appointment of the candidate nominated by County Executive Darlene Kloeppel, not based on the nominee, Lola Jones, but on the process that was followed by the executive, board members said.
“To me, this is simply a matter of process,” said Democratic board member Steve Summers.
The party and its chair should fill vacancies that arise, he said.
District 11 covers nine precincts north of University Avenue in Champaign and Urbana and has a high percentage of active Democrats, Kloeppel said.
One of the board’s two District 11 seats became vacant when representative Titianna Ammons resigned last month.
Filling the vacancy became a contentious issue when Kloeppel objected to the nominee chosen by the Champaign County Democratic Central Committee, Cunningham Township Assessor Wayne Williams.
When vacancies in elected offices arise, Kloeppel said she typically nominates the candidate to fill the vacancy chosen by party leaders — after vetting the candidate herself. But she wasn’t willing to nominate Williams.
While Williams meets the statutory requirements to serve on the county board, Kloeppel said, holding this particular combination of two elected offices — township assessor and county board member — may not be the best practice.
That’s because the township assessor’s work is reviewed by the county Supervisor of Assessments and can be overturned by the Board of Review, both offices that require county board approval for their officials’ appointments and budgets, she said.
Democratic board member Eric Thorsland said Jones “is probably a wonderful person,” but he won’t have the county executive bypass a process that was public and a candidate whom party leaders approved unanimously.
Democratic board Chairman Kyle Patterson said there was a thorough process followed by the party, along with an open application process for the available board seat. He called Kloeppel’s process of making phone calls to find an alternate candidate a “back room” process.
Republican board member Jodi Wolken recalled Williams calling Republicans on the board racist and stupid, and said she won’t be supporting his appointment to the board.
“We have to have board members that can work together,” she said.
Kloeppel said if county Democrats don't come up with another nominee for her to consider -- and one she will agree to put forward to the board -- the District 11 seat remains vacant.
"I will not appoint him," she said of Williams.
Ammons’ eventual replacement on the board will fill the balance of her term, which is up Nov. 30, 2022.