Will County board member on mission to open the curtain on employee bonuses
Will County board member Steve Balich finally got some answers to his questions about the number and amount of bonuses given out to county employees over the past year after he erupted over the issue at a May 1 Finance Committee meeting.
He’s still searching for answers for others, though. Who authorizes the bonuses? Why doesn't the county have a transparent set of standards in place for awarding them?
“I’m a board member and I had to FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) my own county to get some answers,” Balich told the Will County Gazette. “I started that process in January and I got nothing.”
But Balich of Homer Glen said two days after the May 1 meeting he received the numbers he was looking for. Over the past year, 119 employees received a total of $395,000 in bonuses and 531 received a total of $265,000.
He said that many of the bonuses were in the $500 range.
“The money has been appropriated, but for other expenses,” he said. “Let’s say a job is open for a few months, then the department could use that money it would have paid in salary for bonuses.”
He added that he didn’t believe the practice was illegal or even wrong.
“I just think we should have some criteria for giving (bonuses) out and it all should be transparent,” he said.
He said that he assumes that department heads authorize bonuses, but he hasn’t been able to verify that. The Will County website lists 44 departments -- Land Use, Sheriff, State’s Attorney and Coroner among them.
A five-year board member, Balich was alerted to the practice by a county employee.
He said the issue will be one of the topics of discussion at the next GOP caucus meeting, which has yet to be scheduled but will likely be called sometime over the next couple of weeks. The meeting will be open to the public.
The county has 16 Republican board members and 10 Democratic members.