Disconnect in Rutland heats up elections

In Rutland Township, the challenges and controversies seem endless.

In January, the dispute over whether one candidate’s name (Margaret Sanders) will be on the April 4 election ballot was resolved by a Kane County judge. Now, the next election of township officers is just weeks away, and it will be a public referendum on the direction township government will take in the next four years.

Will it be a government in turmoil or one of cooperation and a team effort?

All of the southern part of Sun City is located in Rutland Township, in Kane County. Two distinct factions among the township’s officials have formed, and they have virtually taken on a life of their own. On one side are Supervisor Margaret Sanders, Assessor Janet Siers, Highway Commissioner Jay Schultz, and trustee Raymond Eaton. On the other side are trustees Steve Schuldt, John Payson, and Fred Bulmahn. Many of the other candidates whose names are listed on the crowded township ballot are reportedly lining up on one side or the other.

Various agendas will probably be revealed in what promises to be a lively election campaign as voting day draws closer. One good thing may have come from all this controversy: interest in the township election has increased dramatically.

One township trustee with a long-time perspective and experience in township governance is Steve Schuldt, a Gilberts businessman who is seeking his fourth four-year term on the township board. The Sun Day spent a recent evening getting his take on all things Rutland.

Schuldt has stayed close to home to pursue a career and serve the residents of the township. He is a native of Carpentersville and has been a resident of the township for 27 years. He is president of Tessendorf Mechanical Services, a firm he and his wife, Deb, founded more than 40 years ago. His company provides HVAC services to organizations throughout the Chicago area, including Sun City.

In January, the Sun Day talked to Sanders, Siers, and Schultz, and heard a lot of criticism of Schuldt, Payson, and trustee Bulmahn. Last week, we talked with Schuldt and Bulmahn, and got another side of the Rutland situation.

“As elected officials, our primary responsibility is to serve our township’s residents with the best possible government at the least possible cost,” Schuldt said. “We aren’t all experts, but we need to engage in best practices to do our jobs. At the supervisor, assessor, and highway commissioner positions, we don’t always do that. I put most of this on her [Sanders].

“The most important issue that has occurred started in the summer of 2013,” he said. “We received a letter from our auditor, telling us of several significant deficiencies in the way we conduct our finances. There was no theft or criminal activity, but we just haven’t been doing things right. John [Payson], Fred [Bulmahn] and I have tried to work with Margaret to fix the deficiencies, and it hasn’t gotten done.”

In a letter to the township board on July 3, 2013, auditor Maggie Pasalich of the firm of Tighe, Kress & Orr said an audit of the township’s finances revealed that there is “a lack of segregation of duties for the recording and custody of assets.” Specifically, the report said, “bank reconciliations are performed by the same person who is in charge of billing, accounts payable, and receipts; bank reconciliations are not reviewed and approved by someone other than the preparer; checks are written and signed by the same person; and cash transactions are recorded by the same person receiving the cash or preparing the deposit.”

Schuldt shared his opinion.

“We have repeatedly asked Margaret to implement recommendations to fix these deficiencies,” said Schuldt. “We have repeatedly asked her to have two persons sign checks, a widely accepted best practice in business and government everywhere.”

Two days after the talk with Schuldt, the Sun Day talked with township trustee Fred Bulmahn, a Sun City resident who is a CPA and conducted an accounting business for many years before his retirement.

“We [trustees] are not in this township work for ourselves, we are volunteers,” he said. “These auditing matters are fundamental to proper government. They need to be an important part of what we do.”

Schuldt said this lack of cooperation by the supervisor has occurred in other areas of township activities.

Both Schuldt and Bulmahn say the township needs more transparency in all activities, and more accountability.

“We [trustees] have no authority to require her to do things, even if we are a majority of the board. She is a trustee like the rest of us, and a stalemate has been formed,” Bulmahn said.

Sanders has told the Sun Day that the trustees’ charges against her are politically motivated. She says she follows the laws and regulations regarding her job that have been published by the State of Illinois.

In the election on April 4, there are contests for every one of the eight positions in township government. The balloting could change the Rutland leadership landscape extensively for the next four years.

For supervisor, incumbent Sanders is opposed by Eldon Brauer of Sun City, a newcomer. For assessor, incumbent Siers, who is a former deputy assessor in Campton Township, is opposed by Gary Fritz, a newcomer. For four trustee positions, candidates are incumbents Bulmahn, Schuldt, Payson, Eaton, current township clerk Charleen Carlsen, Nick Hoffman, and Vic Keegan.

For highway commissioner, incumbent Jay Schultz is opposed by Wayne Kaschub. For clerk, newcomers Kathleen Rendl and Arnold Klehm are competing. All terms are four years, and all positions except assessor will start in early May. The assessor term expires on December 31, 2017.

Editor’s Note: The Sun Day is unable to confirm any allegations discussed here or in the February 9 article on Rutland Township matters.

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