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By Randy Pierce
As far as Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler is concerned, Dwight Kay can take a seat on the county transit board. As far as Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Haine is concerned, Kay’s appointment to that board has not been approved.
At issue is whether or not the county board chairman has the authority to break a tie-breaking vote. When the appointment was brought forward at the most recent meeting of the county board, the members present voted 11 in favor and 11 opposed. Prenzler, feeling he had the right to break the tie, cast a yes vote in support of Kay.
When board member Mike Babcock asked Haine that evening if the chairman could break the tie, the latter responded in the affirmative, citing the procedural manual called “Robert’s Rules of Order” which is utilized and formally adopted by government units such as the county board for conducting business.
Haine, however, issued a statement not long after the meeting, offering that he should have asked for more time to research the question, as he had done last December, while concluding that Prenzler did indeed not have the power to break the aforementioned tie vote.
That conclusion by Haine was based upon his determination that state law specifies only a chairman of a county board serving a population of between 300,000 and 3 million people has this right, the minimum of those numbers exceeding the number of people living in Madison County.
He further stated the tie-breaking authority, according to the aforementioned “Robert’s Rules,” is only granted to chairmen chosen by the members of the elected body they preside over but in the case of Prenzler, he was put into that position by the electorate in the county when ballots were cast at the polls.
Therefore, Haine determined, according to state statutes, local ordinances and “Robert’s Rules of Order,” Prenzler cannot “vote on any matter before the board, even to break a tie.”
The appointment of Kay to the Madison County Transit Board had been considered more than once by the county board’s government relations committee chaired by Stacey Pace of Troy, the most recent being in early June when it failed by a margin of five opposed and only one in favor of it.
That same committee was scheduled to meet on Tuesday, July 11, and its agenda released ahead of that time included some other appointments to be considered but it did not list anything about Kay or the Madison County Transit Board.
Haine’s statement noted he personally contacted Prenzler, Kay, County Clerk Linda Andreas and County Administrator Dave Tanzyus to inform them of this interpretation while saying he regretted “any confusion this may have caused.”
“I understand that this appointment in particular has been controversial for some months,” Haine added. “It is not my intention to amplify or extend this controversy but to provide clear and accurate legal advice” that cannot be called into question.
Prenzler responded to Haine’s conclusion about this matter.
“I consider the appointment valid as passed by the county board and I have asked Mr. Kay to take his seat on the Madison County Transit Board.”
Noting that the county board minutes taken by Andreas recorded the votes as they were cast on June 21, Prenzler pointed out that Babcock’s inquiry was answered then as indicated by Haine’s response before the meeting adjourned.
“The state’s attorney just can’t invalidate a vote after the meeting has adjourned,” Prenzler contended, adding, “The public should know that the state’s attorney is conflicted. He represents Madison County Transit and for that office receives $10,000 a month.”
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 until defeated in his quest for reelection by Katie Stuart, was recommended for the MCT Board by Prenzler to serve a four-year term through February of 2026, filling a seat previously held by Kelly Schmidt who resigned less than four months ago.
The appointment of Kay to the MCT Board has surfaced multiple times since Schmidt’s resignation, both before the full county board and its government relations committee, not once receiving sufficient support at either level.