Winn. Co. Forest Preserve District Board Asks President to Resign

By: Meghan Dwyer Email
By: Meghan Dwyer Email

WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WIFR) -- The Winnebago County Forest Preserve District Board asks President Randy Olson to resign.

Board members say Olson hasn't included them when making important decisions.

The Board's Vice President, Mary McNamara Bernsten says at least four of the seven Board members agree that Olson hasn't been a good leader during his tenure.

"It's time to push pause, start with new leadership and just kind of clean the slate for our Board."

The majority of board members released a memo Wednesday saying leadership has been ineffective and calling for change.

"I think it would take an act of God to put us in good stead with the taxpayers," said Board member Gloria Lind.

Olson says he wants to change the way the Forest Preserve is policed. Since 1991, the district has contracted for officers with the Winnebago County Sheriff. Two full-time deputies patrol the preserves and six additional officers help out during the busy summer months.

Olson says the contract is a financial black hole and the Board is paying too much for the patrols. He wants to end the contract when it expires at the end of September and contract with local municipalities for more officers. He says that will save the Preserve $100,000, but Board members say there's no proof local municipalities will even agree.

He also created a new public safety and risk management job without the Board's blessing. Olson hired a long-time Roscoe police officer for the position, and has budgeted to pay her $65,000. The Board asked him not to go through with it.

"Salary was not discussed. Qualifications were not discussed. Twelve people applied, only one was interviewed. It was not a process that the majority of the Board felt was fair," Bernsten says.

"The position has been hired. The position is there for her. Even if they get rid of me, she's safe," Olson says.

The Winnebago County Sheriff says Olson initially asked him to hire the same individual and then put her on Forest Preserve duty, but he told Olson, "that's not the way we do business."

She quit her job with Roscoe police and started her new job at the Forest Preserve effective Wednesday. But Wednesday night Board members introduced a resolution to de-fund the position. It will be voted on at the next meeting.

In order to force Olson off the Board, 5 out of the 7 members have to vote for his resignation. That vote will take place in 30 days.

"They're not gonna get rid of me. They don't have 5 votes," he says.


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