At a Madison County Judiciary Committee meeting earlier this month, committee chair Mike Walters addressed concerns that individuals are "spreading rumors" that Republican committee members are attempting to make job cuts.
Walters said people have been approaching him and "asking why they are cutting them." He said he assured them that there are no plans in place to eliminate positions, and conversely, offices under the committee have actually successfully added jobs.
He said the committee “does a better job of allowing people to expand their offices because it’s needed."
However, Walters said that the individuals who approached him kept using the word "Republican.”
He responded by saying, “Get this through your head, it’s not Republican-Democrat. The Judiciary Committee is very well represented. We do a good job. We work hard. We fight to help everybody that reports to this.
“So if you’re hearing this, that it’s Republicans, that’s an insult to me and especially to the Republicans on this committee. Because we have fought to get I think seven extra people hired for the people in this (who) report to this committee. Nobody else got that,” Walters said.
He added that he told the individuals, “Go back to your, whoever you’re hearing this from. Go back to your unions and tell them it’s not the Republicans that are trying to do this.”
Walters said he told the individuals, “You’re hearing conspiracy theories and, ‘Well Republicans hate this and they just want to cut, cut, cut.’”
He said that when he told the individuals what the committee’s plans are for the future, every one of them said, “Oh that makes sense.”
Walters said he does not know if the people spreading the rumors are in unions or not, but said that spreading false information is being disrespectful.
“It’s disheartening,” he said. “It’s not R versus D. We do a hell of a job on this committee and the people here work their rear ends off.”
Walters told department heads at the meeting that he is not blaming anyone in particular, as he knows the rumors did not originate from any of them.
“But apparently there are people below you that are spreading these rumors,” he said.
Walters said he hopes these types of rumors will stop in the future.
He did not specify who made the statements or which departments they worked in.
The Judiciary Committee works with the circuit court, circuit clerk, state’s attorney, sheriff, probation and court services, juvenile detention home, public defender and jury commission. The committee coordinates criminal justice operations and recommends procedure changes.
Judiciary committee members include Walters (R), Mike Parkinson (D), Phil Chapman (R), Gussie Glasper (D), Chrissy Dutton (R), Jamie Goggin (R) and Liz Dalton (D).
While the departments coordinating with the Judiciary Committee have seen positions added, other local government boards have made cuts, most notably in recent times at the Metro East Sanitary District (MESD) which is headed by Republican Steve Adler. The district provides services to communities in Madison and St. Clair counties.
Adler said he laid off 10 employees and cut management in half since assuming leadership last year.
He said that financial problems had beset the district, which lost $8 million in 10 years under Democrat leadership.
Adler previously told the Record that the prior administration was “hiring willy-nilly without concern for ramification on budgets.”
Adler was appointed executive director of MESD by Republican Madison County Board chairman Kurt Prenzler.
In late May, Democrat lawmakers passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) and Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville) requiring that one of five commissioners on the Republican-controlled MESD board must be the mayor of the largest city in the county with the greatest assessed value, which in effect gives the seat to Democrat Ed Hagnauer, mayor of Granite City
The bill also requires the board’s executive director be a resident of the district on the date of enactment.
Adler currently lives outside the district in Alton and is hoping for a veto by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
While Haine said the district has been a bed of political patronage and lacked competent leadership under both parties, he noted the MESD’s recent attempt to establish a special service tax.
He was critical of the special service area, which would have taxed properties at 43 cents per $100 in Caseyville, Fairmont City, Brooklyn, Washington Park, and part of East St. Louis. The special area would not have included Madison and Venice.
However, St. Clair County Associate Judge Julie Katz declared the establishment of a special service area void, invalid and unenforceable.
A similar lawsuit is pending in Madison County.