By Shane Nicholson
ROCKFORD – Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen announced Sunday that he would not seek re-election this fall, withdrawing his name from the March GOP primary.
But sources close to the county board tell the Times that may not be enough. A resolution to seek the resignation of the embattled county supremo, under investigation by the FBI for irregular spending during his time at the helm, may be introduced as soon as next week.
Sources told the Times over the weekend that members of the board had become frustrated at what they viewed as attempts to obfuscate the investigation for political gain. “Winnebago County shouldn’t have to wait to see a clean slate,” one board member said.
In addition to the call for resignation, members of the county board are floating the idea of a fresh audit of the county’s books going back as far as a decade. Christiansen became chairman in 2004.
The FBI has thus far seized thousands of dollars of exercise and healthcare equipment housed at the county’s Public Safety Building, including a $4,200 sauna that had previously been installed at Christiansen’s home.
County spending with vendors World’s Finest Chocolate and Kelley Williamson, as well as with Northern Mechanical, Scandroli Construction and ADV/ANJ Landscaping, has also come under the scope of the FBI review.
Spending irregularities in the board’s operations were reportedly first uncovered following an analysis of the county’s finances by Sheriff Gary Caruana’s office. Former Purchasing Director Sally Claassen was placed on leave last August, formally resigning in September.
The proposed forensic audit – focused on last year’s accounts as well as two other years currently part of the FBI probe – could be considered at next Thursday’s regular county board meeting, though a special session may be convened before then.
Christiansen, in an email to campaign supporters, said that the decision to not seek re-election was a personal matter and not due to the ongoing investigation.
“After much thought and discussion with my family, I have made the difficult decision not to seek re-election,” wrote the chairman. “Due to the time constraints and demands of my position, I have missed far too many family gatherings and events as my children grew up and I don’t want to do the same with my grandchildren.”
Frank Haney, chairman of the Rock Valley College Board, will now run unopposed in the March 15 GOP primary. Rockford attorney John Nelson is running as a write-in candidate for the Democratic Party.