Skip to content

Oversight plan passes at special meeting of the Madison County Board

Chairman’s “bad personnel decisions” and “misogynistic comments” are last straw for Board.

At a special meeting of the Madison County Board on Wednesday an overwhelming majority of Republicans and Democrats on the board delivered a stinging rebuke to Chairman Kurt Prenzler, voting for additional oversight by the Board and removing nearly all of the Chairman’s substantive powers within County Board administration. All of the powers granted the Chairman by State Law will remain in place, but his powers relating to County Administration, which were within the exclusive authority of the Board, were removed.

Most recently, Prenzler’s judgment was put in stark focus after a letter he signed surfaced in his unsuccessful bid to oust fellow Republican Denise Wiehardt from her Granite City County Board seat. The letter stated that Wiehardt’s opponent was “what a woman should be; married to her husband…”

Regarding the letter about “what a woman should be,” Denise Wiehardt (R-Granite City) stated: “I was saddened, but not surprised. How dare he decide what a “real woman” should be? Though I am divorced, I am very proud of the children I have raised and the career that I’ve built. I find his letter disturbing and offensive.”

Wiehardt is a regional program manager for the St Louis Crisis Nursery, an agency that serves women and children in crisis. “I’ve dedicated my life to serving ‘real women’ in very difficult situations,” said Wiehardt. “This comment was personally offensive to many, and the last straw. He has lost my confidence in his ability to lead.”

“Many of my fellow county board members of both parties have been concerned about Chairman Prenzler’s judgment, especially relating to personnel decisions and appointments, for quite some time,” Stacey Pace (R-Troy). “The losses from expensive lawsuits and staff turnover have piled up. But these offensive misogynistic comments about Denise, a written letter no less, were the last straw. It has to end.”

“This is about Board oversight and authority in Board appointments and administration. And frankly, this is long overdue.” said Eric Foster (R-Granite City). “The lack of leadership, bad personnel decisions, and the revolving door of department heads has to stop, so citizens can be served well by their tax dollars.”

“The turnover in County Administration hurts everyone, and is squarely the fault of the bad management of the Chairman,” said County Board Member Mick Madison (R-Bethalto). “We are on our fourth Community Development Director, third veterinarian at Animal Control, third Facilities manager, fourth EMA director, second Building and Zoning director, second county administrator, second IT Director, and numerous Deputy Directors have come and gone. It is ridiculous, and the taxpayers of Madison County are footing the bill. It is time for the Board to get more involved. The Chairman is not fulfilling his duties. He is acting as if he were a county executive, but that’s not the style of government we have in place in Madison County. He is Chairman of the Board, with specific duties granted to him by the County Board, which is to fulfill the wishes of the board and assist in the day-to-day operations along with the County Administrator. The Chairman does not rule the Board. The Board rules itself. Per county ordinance, the County Board Chair shall implement the decisions and policies of the Board.”

“County Board members are tired of having to settle cases that are tied to the Chairman’s action,” said Bobby Ross (R-St. Jacob). “It is our responsibility to protect the taxpayer from these kinds of problems. And I believe this oversight plan will reduce the constant payouts relating to bad personnel and turnover decisions in the County.”

“I’ve supported Kurt politically in the past, but from a professional standpoint, we just can’t sit by and allow this erratic behavior and mismanagement to continue,” said County Board member Mike Babcock (R-Bethalto).

Prenzler’s personnel decisions also cost taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees and settlements. Last spring a sexual harassment and wrongful termination lawsuit was settled with former Community Development Director Kristin Poshard that cost the county over $1.3 million including legal fees. Poshard was a controversial Prenzler appointee who claimed that Prenzler and former County Administrator Doug Hulme, who was also a Prenzler appointee, ignored her concerns of sexual harassment by a former County Board member. In addition, an investigative report regarding the Poshard case was leaked from Prenzler’s office to a person who made the document public, during an active court case.

A previous wrongful termination lawsuit against Prenzler had cost Madison County over $650,000. And currently there are at least three other wrongful termination lawsuits pending. Two of the lawsuits are by Prenzler appointees including former county administrator, Doug Hulme and former IT Director, Rob Dorman, who were fired by the County Board in April of 2020 after they were investigated by a special government corruption task force. The third pending wrongful termination lawsuit involves an engineer Prenzler fired in the highway department.

The county has spent hundreds of thousands just in legal fees thus far in defending those lawsuits.

All other GOP Countywide officials supported the Board’s move: “We all believe these proposed changes are reasonable and responsible. We fully support them,” said Circuit Clerk Tom McRae, County Auditor David Michael, State’s Attorney Tom Haine, Treasurer Chris Slusser, and Regional Superintendent of Schools Rob Werden in a separate press release sent out Tuesday. “As independent elected officials, we need the County administration to work smoothly and efficiently so we can do our jobs well. Every Republican county-wide elected official agrees that Chairman Prenzler’s inept management and bad judgment is wasting taxpayer resources and harming our abilities to serve the citizens of Madison County. This action is long overdue, and we commend the Board’s leadership in pursuing these ordinance updates even in the face of personal attacks.“

Leave a Comment