By Shane Nicholson
ROCKFORD — Winnebago County Chairman Frank Haney has hit back at a series of reports regarding the structure of a settlement agreement with a former county administrator.
Amanda Hamaker left the county at the beginning of November in what the chairman called a “mutual agreement” at the time. In an Oct. 30 report from the Register Star, Haney said that details of a separation were being worked out, but no details were provided at the time.
Several board members have recently questioned the terms and nature of the contract, including some who told The Times they had never seen a copy of the arrangement prior to the newspaper publishing it last week.
But Haney contends that’s not the case, and that his office followed policy in the Hamaker deal and others now being reviewed by board members and county officials.
“We followed board policy,” Haney said in an email. “Is anyone suggesting on record otherwise? If so, they are in disagreement with me, the (state’s attorney’s) office, and a long list of board members.”
The first-term Republican has characterized the questioning of the Hamaker agreement as “a coordinated political attack” which he says is aimed at discrediting and derailing his office and his agenda.
The chairman called the county’s budget situation a factor in this personnel decision, adding that Hamaker’s former position is being considered for a return at a lower pay grade.
A bi-partisan group of county board members on Monday were “calling for more transparency in the hiring and firing of county employees,” they said in a statement.
“This example, and a few others that we are looking into, has us concerned over the transparency of these types of complicated agreements,” board member Burt Gerl said. “We think the county board should be involved and given more detail when a situation like this arises.”
Hamaker’s settlement, signed Nov. 14, called for a payout of $29,999.97 in salary plus accrued benefits. Haney says he acted in accordance with county regulations and in his position as chairman.
“Whether 2-3 weeks of pay or 2-3 months, is anyone asserting that I didn’t have the authority to do what I did as chairman?” he said in the email. “If so, they are mistaken.”
In a phone call Tuesday, Haney reiterated that his office had taken all the necessary steps with the Hamaker deal: “The policies in place were followed. Proper communication with the board occurred.”
County board members reached this week said they were continuing a review of the circumstances around Hamaker’s departure and the terms of her agreement. The Operations and Finance Committees are slated to meet Thursday night. R.