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HARRISBURG — Saline County Board voted to take legal action against Saline County Clerk Kim Buchanan during a special meeting Wednesday evening in Harrisburg.

Board Chairman Jay Williams called the meeting to order and, as is customary, the meeting opened with a prayer. Commissioner David Phelps prayed that the board would make civil and fair decisions.

The first item on the agenda was an ordinance to make the county treasurer — or someone in that office — the agent for the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

Treasurer Jeff Murrie explained that the accounts for some employees were incorrect. In October, some employees were taken off IMRF in error. In one case, an employee owes $5,000 and the county owes $5,000.

In January, the Saline County Board voted to move payroll processing from the county clerk’s office to the county treasurer’s office, citing problems with paychecks being available on time and issues with payroll deductions. Murrie’s office is now trying to correct some employee accounts.

Murrie said the easiest way to get those accounts corrected is for someone who is involved with payroll to get the reports from IMRF. Currently, those reports go to the county clerk.

“The board has to pass a resolution to get that done,” Murrie explained.

Joe Jackson, chairman of the budget committee, made a motion to pass the resolution. It was seconded by Steve Karns.

“Judge Clark said the county does not have authority to remove duties of the county clerk,” Commissioner Danny Gibbs said, referring to a case management conference held earlier in the day for a lawsuit filed by Buchanan against Murrie and Saline Circuit Clerk Randy Nyberg.

Saline County State’s attorney Jayson Clark explained those duties are not statutory duties of the county clerk.

Again, Gibbs questioned why this vote was taking place when the lawsuit gave the parties a deadline of March 27 to work out their issues.

“We are trying to correct an issue that has been going on for years,” Jackson said.

The motion passed with all board members present voting in favor of the resolution except Gibbs, who recused himself.

The next item on the agenda was the vote to take legal action against Buchanan for not complying with a judge’s order from last year to keep note account balances on a form created by the county board that is then given to the treasurer.

Buchanan is dividing money received by her office into different accounts than those specified.

The resolution asks Clark to petition the court to hold Buchanan in contempt of court for not filling out the form as ordered.

“The forensic audit we had done specifically pointed out that this was a problem,” County Commissioner Roger Craig said.

The motion passed with everyone except Gibbs voting in favor. Gibbs again recused himself.

Craig said the attorney general’s office is looking at the forensic audit. When they finish, they will contact the state’s attorney to discuss it.

The next item was elections. Commissioner Phelps, chairman of the election committee, contacted the county clerk to discuss the election, but she has not replied.

“The issue is, the election office is not open from noon to 1 p.m., which violates state statute,” Clark said, adding that he has been contacted by people who have tried to vote during their lunch hour, but could not.

Another issue is new election equipment. The equipment will cost more than $100,000 but the board was told it could not cost taxpayers anything. The board has asked for the contract for the equipment to see if it might be cheaper to rent the equipment, but has not received it from the county clerk.

Also, the equipment has not been tested. A test is usually run before absentee voting begins to make sure the equipment works properly.

Saline County Democratic Chairman Bob Oglesby said he was told the equipment would be tested at 10 a.m. Friday.

The board also discussed a lawsuit the county clerk filed seeking an injunction and restraining order against the treasurer and circuit clerk over payroll processing. The parties involved were asked to work out a temporary agreement, which Clark believes happened, that will be in force until a permanent agreement can be reached. The judge expects a permanent agreement by March 27, the date of the next hearing.

The final item on the agenda was payment of supplemental health insurance from AFLAC. A number of employees purchased the optional coverage through AFLAC. The amount was deducted from their paychecks. However, the premiums for the insurance were not paid.

Two employees have had large claims, including an employee whose son was attacked by a dog, and another whose daughter was transferred to an Evansville hospital by helicopter.

“We took money from employee pay checks. We did not pay. So, they didn’t get what they were promised,” Commissioner Steve Karns said.

The result is a complicated mess, according to Karns.

During this discussion, members of the crowd voiced their opinions.

Bill Bethel, Buchanan’s father, asked why this meeting was called two weeks before the primary election. Buchanan has an opponent in the primary, Commissioner Roger Craig.

Ellis McEwan, an army veteran, asked if his vote would count.

“Given all the history of her not doing her job right, how can we expect a fair election?” McEwan asked.

Phelps said unless some glaring mistake was found on election, he believes the election will be fair. He also urged everyone to get out and vote in the primary.

“The worse enemy we have is complacency,” Phelps said.



Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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