Winnebago Forest Preserve Power Struggle Continues

In a continuation of this story, Winnebago Forest Preserve District president Randy Olson has created and staffed a public safety job without the approval — and indeed in defiance of — a majority of the board.

And, it appears the move might even be legal:

Olson’s authorization of the hire is a rare move in the forest preserve district, but the Downstate Forest Preserve District Act appears to give him the power to do so: “The president of (the forest preserve board) shall have power to appoint such employees as may be necessary.”

That appears to conflict with the Winnebago County Forest Preserve’s bylaws, which says the president can make appointments “subject to confirmation by the board.” The board’s attorney has advised commissioners that state statutes trump local rules, Kalousek said.

Olson’s plan is an alternative to contracting with the Winnebago County Sheriff’s police for protection in the preserves. The problems, according to a memo written by four members of the board, are that Olson failed to make a case for his actions to the rest of the board, and that he improperly used a closed session meeting to try to get other board members to go along them.

The board could remove Olson as president, but would need to pick up a fifth vote to do so.