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Two Winnebago County Board members file petition to add Executive form of government option to November ballot

County currently operates as a Township form of government
A new county government option could make its way to the November ballot after two Winnebago County Board members filed a petition
A new county government option could make its way to the November ballot after two Winnebago County Board members filed a petition(Courtney Sisk)
Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 9:37 PM CDT
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WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Ill. (WIFR) - A new county government option could make its way to the November ballot after two Winnebago County Board members filed a petition Thursday. Jean Crosby and John Butitta filed the petition to the Clerk of the Circuit Court to add an executive form of government option to the ballot for voters to choose.

The County currently operates as a Township, where everything is governed by local ordinance instead of state statute.

“The type of government that Winnebago County should have should be at the choice of the constituents and not the 20 members,” says Crosby. “We are the second or third largest community in the state, and we need a county-wide executive.”

Cook, Kankakee and Champaign are the only counties in Illinois that operate as an executive form.

An executive government would give power and responsibility back to the Chairperson’s position. Crosby and Butitta say if voters select a Chair for a specific role, then that role should not be allowed to change. In an executive form the board cannot attempt to make ordinance changes to shift responsibilities to, or away from, the Chairperson.

There were at least 14 attempted ordinance changes during the current Chairperson, Frank Haney’s, term.

“I’d like to see more stability in county government,” says Butitta. “Currently the way county government is formed the county board has the power to create the county board position. This would allow the state statutes to define what the county board position is and what authorities they have.”

The majority of the county board members disagree with changing the structure to an executive form. Jim Webster tells 23 News on the phone that many members believe executive structure gives too much power to one person, instead of splitting it among all board members. He also says if a Chairperson is not performing their duties properly, there is no way for the board to make adjustments to the position.

Chairperson Frank Haney issued this statement to 23 News:

“Do I believe the current county structure, when misused as it has been the past 3.5 years, can disenfranchise voters, overturn election results, and prevent reform, and protect the status quo? Absolutely! It is refreshing to see voter choice respected by placing this decision in the hands of taxpayers, not politicos, self interests, and the old guard.”

The petition will now go in front of a judge. If it’s approved it will appear on the November ballot, however if it wins in the election it won’t go into effect until 2024.

Copyright 2020 WIFR. All rights reserved.

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