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Madison County Board Chairman Battle Heats Up

EDITOR’s NOTE: In an earlier version of this story South Roxana City Administrator Bob Coles was noted as making an endorsement. Coles reached out the Times Tribune and said that he is not be endorsing any candidate. 

By Randy Pierce

 MADISON COUNTY — With each of them sharing compilations of who has donated to his opponent’s campaign fund, announcing endorsements and making other comments of a critical nature, the battle between Kurt Prenzler, incumbent chairman of the Madison County Board, and Chris Slusser, running for that seat in this month’s primary election, has gotten more heated as its date, Tuesday, March 19, draws near.

Prenzler has commented that “People are telling me, ‘Kurt, if you don’t win, it will be 2000 again in Madison County – a political machine no different than the old days with (Nelson) Hagnauer, (Rudy) Papa and (Alan) Dunstan – but this time with an R label.’”

Currently serving as Madison County treasurer, Slusser has been making statements calling attention to a recently concluded investigation into an ethics ordinance violation committed and admitted to by Prenzler while also focusing on the chairman’s financial support from vendors doing business with the county.

Regarding the ethics situation, during which Prenzler gave a pocket-sized card said to be connected with his reelection campaign to a representative from the Pinkerton agency who resides in Ohio, the chairman described Slusser’s statements a “politically motivated witch hunt” over a minor error.

Along with pressing Prenzler to cooperate with the ethics investigation after his alleged refusal to do so by not answering a list of written questions about the circumstances involved, Slusser called attention to what he described as the resulting “scathing” report which included an accusation of “quid pro quo” action by the chairman, all of those factors leading to the majority of the county board voting to approve a resolution of censure, essentially considered as a public scolding similar to what happened in the United States Congress concerning Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s, connected to this matter.

With both of these candidates running for the chairman position in the Republican primary, Prenzler is quick to point out that Slusser has allegedly received campaign contributions from the Democratic mayors of Alton, Pontoon Beach and Granite City in Madison County along with substantial financial support from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees which has a significant quantity of affiliate members working for the government body which both candidates currently represent.

Prenzler further says that the Slusser campaign has received contributions from former public-school superintendents and “waterfalls of” money from Democrats and “Republicans in Name Only.”

Regarding the school districts and influence of individuals he refers to as “RINOs,” Prenzler has advanced that in 11 of those districts within Madison County, substantial tax bill increases, including one of over 15 percent in Collinsville and another up seven percent for Triad of Troy, are forthcoming after the primary has concluded.

Slusser has issued a statement which contends that since being elected to the position Prenzler now holds, he has received over $80,000 in campaign donations from vendors from which products and services have been acquired by the county, something the treasurer says is a broken promise on the part of the chairman who, in 2016, made a pledge not to accept such support.

Those donations, according to Slusser, reflect on the aforementioned ethics violation because Prenzler had given a card with a link to his online donation portal to a representative of a company performing paid services for the county.

In offering details about this aspect of Prenzler’s campaign, Slusser said there have been 150 donations from county vendors to it since the incumbent chairman was first elected to the office currently occupies.

Along with delineating those contributions for the years 2017 through 2022 in the form of quantities and dollar amounts, Slusser commented that, “Based on Mr. Prenzler’s long-documented track record of hounding county vendors for political donations since he became chairman, I think it’s easy to draw the conclusion that he was attempting to shake down another county vendor” in the situation involving the Pinkerton employee.

Amid those kinds of statements from Slusser, Prenzler reacted concerning the history of the government level relationship between the two men.

Prenzler said that when he was considering appointing Slusser as county treasurer in 2016, during an interview, the subject of the latter’s work as a police officer at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville earlier this century came up.

Explaining that he had asked Slusser why he left that job after only two years, Prenzler stated he also inquired concerning “any negative things” in the latter’s background that the chairman should know about, and the answer was no.

Leading Prenzler to the conclusion that he had been lied to at that time, he said in the same statement where these circumstances were shared that Slusser “was fired from his job…for breaking into his supervisor’s briefcase, stealing confidential correspondence, copying it on a university copier and distributing it with the intent to smear his supervisor’s reputation.”

This was not learned by Prenzler, he noted, until well after he had appointed Slusser as county treasurer.

Slusser announced late last week that he had received endorsements concerning his county board chairman election effort from State’s Attorney Tom Haine, Sheriff Jeff Connor, Circuit Clerk Tom McRae, Auditor David Michael, County Clerk Linda Andreas and Robert Werden, regional superintendent of schools.

Among those making public endorsements of Prenzler are United States 15th Congressional District Representative Mary Miller and members of the Madison County Conservative Caucus, of which he is a member, including Stephen J. Adler, former county deputy administrator, County Board District 7 representative Michael Turner of Godfrey and county board candidates Linda Wolfe of Collinsville and Doug Matthews of Glen Carbon. Also offering an endorsement for Prenzler is Dwight Kay of Glen Carbon who served in the Illinois General Assembly as a representative from a district taking in much of Madison County between 2010 and 2016.

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