PEKIN — A resolution to formally censure Tazewell County Clerk and Recorder of Deeds John Ackerman was narrowly defeated during Wednesday’s meeting of the Tazewell County Board.
The measure failed by a margin of eight votes for and nine against, with County Board member Frank Sciortino abstaining. Tazewell County Board Chairman David Zimmerman and board members Carroll Imig, Greg Longfellow and Tammy Rich-Stimson were absent.
The resolution, as read by County Board member Nick Graff, accused Ackerman of willfully withholding from the board his intention to give “grossly inflated” raises to employees in the county clerk and recorder of deeds office. The resolution also stated the raises were unsustainable and that Ackerman had entered into a sidebar agreement with the Teamsters Union for the wage increases without the County Board’s approval.
Ackerman maintained the raises are sustainable and he has utilized funding provided by the board for payment to clerk's office employees, as well as fee-fund revenue available to him through state law. He also said he had lengthy discussions with several county officials regarding the proposed pay increases and had invited board members to review his accounts and employee pay schedules.
“Throughout this process, I’ve sent you emails and I’ve sent you communications,” Ackerman told the board members. “I’ve seen many of you and told you, ‘If you would like to come in and talk with me, my door is open.’ Some of you did, and I appreciate that. (Others) did not.”
Board member Russ Crawford voted against the resolution. While he disagreed with Ackerman’s actions, he believed a formal censure of an elected county official could set an unwelcome precedent.
“A censure resolution is going to drive the fish to deep water,” he stated. “Do you think he’s going to want to cooperate with the County Board after you censure him publicly and take votes away for a possible re-election?”
Crawford made an impassioned call for cooperation between the board and elected officials, highlighting the importance of mutual respect between the two parties and alluding to an ongoing dispute between the board and Auditor Shelly Hranka.
“If either (party) loses some of that mutual respect and dignity, neither one wins,” he said, his voice rising. “But there is a loser. It’s the taxpayers. It’s our citizens. They lose because we end up spending attorney’s fees on both sides to fund a legal case, and the taxpayers pay for two opposing sides.”