By Randy Pierce
Madison County Board member Paul Nicolussi of Collinsville has hit the ground running during his first month after being elected to his position in early November but has seen something that he believed in strongly going down to defeat by a majority vote of 16 to 10.
At the most recent meeting of the county board, Nicolussi presented and made a motion to repeal, undo, negate legislation passed in early July concerning the duties, responsibilities and authority of the chairman.
Board member Stacey Pace of Troy, during the course of a lengthy discussion concerning this matter, commented on the verbiage that has been brought up often since this issue materialized, saying, “I’m struggling with the statement many are making that these are powers that you have,” directing her remarks toward Chairman Kurt Prenzler. This was in reference to the aforementioned July ordinance which many commented took away some of his “powers.”
“These are not powers of the chairman,” Pace remarked. “They are powers that the board has chosen to let you borrow and have leadership for but I think there’s confusion among so many people. I just wanted to clarify that.”
Pace further asked for and received confirmation that the motion from Nicolussi was to reverse what had been done in July concerning this matter after she stated, “we received this information minutes before this meeting.”
Another member of the board, Terry Eaker of Bethalto, commented that Nicolussi’s attempt to bring the ordinance repeal forward “to give your (Prenzler) powers back” at a special meeting of the county board earlier in December was “out of order” because it was not listed on that evening’s agenda as required even though the chairman said he would allow it.
The board voted against considering it on December 5, Eaker went on, accusing Prenzler of preferring to allow it, “for your own personal reasons which had nothing to do with the special meeting that was called that night.”
Eaker continued to share that over the weekend of December 17, he conversed by phone with Nicolussi asking how he (Eaker) would be voting on the amending of the ordinance concerning the chairman.
Upon Eaker responding that he would not be in favor of “to reinstate the powers,” he said Nicolussi asked him to abstain which the latter denied, at the December 21 meeting.
Eaker further remarked that Nicolussi’s suggestion/request was “very out of order. No board members should be telling somebody how they should vote. It doesn’t matter what the situation is.”
When Eaker asked Prenzler if he had told Nicolussi to ask Eaker to abstain, the chairman responded negatively.
Nicolussi reacted by saying Eaker “apparently doesn’t know the demographics of Bethalto” concerning the support there for Prenzler.
Other board members, including Bill Stoutenborough of Alton, who spoke at great length on matters related to this issue, Nick Petrillo of Granite City plus Alison Lamothe and Charles “Skip” Schmidt, both newly elected from Edwardsville, next entered the discussion, offering their feelings, concerns and comments before Nicolussi provided further insight about his approach.
“Just to clarify, my vote tonight,” he said, “has nothing to do with Kurt Prenzler as a person. It has to do with the powers of the chairmanship.”
“I understand that a lot of people have their issues with Kurt, which happened before I was on the board, but I will comment that Kurt has won county-wide elections since 2010 and seems to have a real connection with the voters as I think a lot of speakers (during the public comment portion of the meeting on December 21) demonstrated that tonight.
“The last thing I want to do is take away the powers of any county-wide elected official. People are really cynical about politicians and institutions in general in this country right now. I don’t want to bring that to Madison County.”
Before the vote on the motion from Nicolussi, other board members jumped into the fray, offering further input concerning the legislation before them, all of this dominating the evening before other more routine business was addressed.