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By Randy Pierce
By far, the most dominant topic of a lengthy discussion that was marked by statements of contentiousness at a meeting of the Madison County Board Government Relations Committee, chaired by Stacey Pace of Troy, held on Tuesday, May 2, the proposed appointment of Dwight Kay to the board of directors for Madison County Transit was turned down.
Kay, a high-profile individual as a result of his serving in the Illinois General Assembly as a representative from this district between 2010 and 2016, was recommended for the MCT Board by Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler to serve a four-year term through February of 2026, filling a seat previously held by Kelly Schmidt who resigned less than three months ago.
County Board member Mike Babcock of Bethalto opened the talk about Kay’s candidacy for that position by expressing his concern over a Facebook posting by the latter which mentioned “a person or persons that acted in a manner that was callous, conceited and had a dismissive attitude” during a meeting with a candidate for a role on the Metro East Sanitary District Board where that individual’s disciplinary record was brought up.
“Could you share with us all what you meant by that post?” Babcock asked Kay. “The board’s job is to ensure that we choose the right person, hopefully 100 per cent of the time. There are times when I might get it right and there are times when I certainly might get it wrong.”
Babcock continued to say he felt it was him who Kay was referring to in the negative comments included in the social media posting. Further stating he was not trying to be “callous, conceited and dismissive,” Babcock said that the role of the committee he was part of at the time in question was looking for “individuals that want to serve, who are constructive in their behavior, not destructive.”
Board member Alison Lamothe of Edwardsville remarked that she too was concerned about Kay’s statements and that she sees the government relations committee as being one required “to use our intelligence and our judgment, not to rubber stamp the chairman’s wishes.”
Kay provided the county elected officials present with a profile that he said indicates his qualifications to serve on the MCT Board, asking that the committee members read it carefully.
Babcock returned to his initial position, directing to Kay, “You’ve been in politics a long time, a very well-respected man and yet you came out and used some very bad language.”
Kay reverted to what prompted him to make the social media comments, citing how when Randy Presswood was suggested for the MESD Board, the negative comments made about him at that time were questionable from a “decorum” standpoint.
Presswood’s “coming and offering himself and his experience for a job doesn’t warrant that kind of treatment,” Kay continued. “We don’t even do that in the General Assembly but we seem to think we can do it here. I personally think it’s wrong.”
After Babcock told Kay, “I still love ya” but would not be supporting the appointment, the former state representative said basing that conclusion on “a Facebook note which was read by 90 people with three responses” was only an excuse and not a valid one for overlooking his qualifications, which include many years with Cassens and Sons Transport of Glen Carbon that included service as its vice-president, and suitability for the transit board.
Dalton Gray, a government relations committee member, of Troy voiced his support for Kay, “I understand there may be some personality conflicts or some upset feelings about what may or may not have been said or who that was directed at but I believe Mr. Kay’s qualifications speak for themselves here and it would be a loss to the taxpayers if he’s not able to serve on the MCT Board.”
Later Gray added that he has confidence in Kay’s ability in positive communications, saying he would not have risen to the Cassens vice-presidency had he not be so capable.
Prenzler was present and joined the discussion by describing as “bushwacking” the previously referenced questioning of Presswood about his being disciplined in his previous employment.
With Prenzler referring to Babcock’s insurance business, the county board chairman stated the treatment of Presswood would be similar to Babcock being asked if there was ever a client who was unhappy with a claim he handled.
Board member Michael “Mick” Madison, not a member of the committee deliberating upon Kay’s appointment, remarked that what happened with Presswood “is not part of this vote (on Kay).”
Madison further accused Prenzler of “trying to cause drama” by repeatedly proposing the same individuals for appointments after they have been turned down, this being not the first time Kay was suggested as an MCT Board member.
“He does it over and over,” Madison said about Prenzler. “He likes to play games with the (county) board.”
“I told him it’s not appropriate. He shouldn’t be doing that to the board. He says he’s going to continue to do that. He’s not going to change a thing and he’s proven that again there today.”
Reacting that there is no one more qualified for the MCT Board role than Kay, Prenzler said this is primarily because of his extensive experience in the field of transportation.
Lamothe answered this by saying there is a big difference between commercial transportation like Kay was part of at Cassens and that which is offered as a public service like MCT does.
Another county board member in attendance but not on the committee, Paul Nicolussi of Collinsville, fired off at Madison, “Kurt (Prenzler) is only responsible for Kurt’s actions, not how other people act when he appoints somebody so if there’s drama, you cannot blame him for it. Our job as board members is to vote for qualified people.”
“If you have an issue with this person personally, you should leave that at home and vote for the most qualified candidate, not blame Kurt for starting drama.”
Committee member Denise Wiehardt of Granite City said while qualifications are important and no one is doubting Kay’s, that does not matter if the person cannot work with others, citing that the issue is one of “question of interpersonal relationships” about which she noted was negatively impacted because of the aforementioned Facebook posting.
From county board member Frank Dickerson of Worden came a cautionary statement that emotions should not be a factor in decisions such as the one at hand.
Only Gray and Jason Palmero of Glen Carbon voted to support the Kay appointment while Pace, Wiehardt, Lamothe and Babcock voted no.