Winnebago County Forest Preserve President Randy Olson makes a new hire that a majority of his fellow board members aren't happy with. He's also altering forest preserve security by reducing the County Sheriff's Department's contract with the district. But, he's changing things without consulting preserve commissioners, and now some of them want Olson out.
"It's time to push pause... Start with new leadership... And kind of clean the slate for our board with our new strategic plan." -says Winnebago County Forest Preserve District Vice President Mary McNamara Bernsten.
Tensions were high at tonight's Forest Preserve Board meeting. Four out of the seven commissioners on the board have asked to vote Olson out of his position as president. That decision will take place 30 days from now, and it'll take five votes, in order for him to step down. President Olson already has his own vote to count on, and his confidence doesn't stop there.
"They don't have five votes. [Commissioners] Gloria Lind and Cheryl Maggio understand and believe in the program that we've got moving forward."
As for Olson's plan, he says terminating the district's contract with the Sheriff's Department, and instead working with Police Departments in municipalities with preserves in their jurisdiction, will save the board more than $100,000 its first year. Additionally, if all the Police Departments are on board, it could increase the number of officers patrolling the preserves from two or three, to more than 20. But, Vice President Mary McNamara Bernsten says there's no need to add more security.
"I haven't heard one concern about somebody not getting a forest preserve district deputy in there fast enough. Issues in our forest preserve are so few and far between."
As for the new hire, Theresa Rawaillot, she started her new position Wednesday as a Director of Public Safety and Risk Management officer. Olson says that even if the board votes him out of presidency, her job is still safe.
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