County Board told to mind its own business

Nick Vlahos

Carol Newtson’s attorney has a message for the Woodford County Board:

Mind your own business.

“The County Board has no business dictating to her who she can hire, who she can fire, who she can promote or who she can demote,” Pete Dluski said Feb. 16.

“And if they do have that authority, I certainly want to see it.”

Dluski, a Pekin attorney, made his comments after he accompanied Newtson, the Woodford County circuit clerk, to a meeting of the board’s county offices committee.

She addressed the committee about leasing a building used to store documents that had to be moved from the Woodford County Courthouse because of structural issues.

Newtson and some board members have been at odds the last few months. Newtson gave an employee an 11 percent pay raise. The board had recommended a maximum raise of 2 percent.

Newtson also hired her daughter to the equivalent of a full-time position after the board implemented a flexible hiring freeze.

Committee members didn’t raise those subjects Thursday.

Committee Chairman Mike Hinrichsen had asked Newtson to appear at its January meeting to answer questions about the pay raise and the hiring, but she didn’t attend.

The Journal Star has attempted numerous times to contact Newtson, in person and over the telephone. She didn’t respond or was out of her office.

When a reporter approached Newtson as she and Dluski left the meeting Thursday and asked if she had any comment, she replied: “I really don’t.”

She referred other questions to Dluski, a former Woodford County assistant state’s attorney.

The County Board directives apply to offices run by appointed officials, not elected ones.

The board cannot force Newtson to comply. Other elected officials have been following the board’s policies.

“There’s a history here with this County Board of trying to dictate things that are outside their scope,” Dluski said.

“What they need to do is concentrate on doing their jobs and leave other elected officials to do their jobs. That’s really what it comes down to.”

Hinrichsen and fellow board members Russell Cotton and Larry Whitaker have been critical publicly regarding Newtson’s practices and her silence.

Dluski said as long as his client is doing the work she was elected to do, their criticism is meaningless.

“Maybe Mr. Whitaker can answer your question of what authority he has to tell Carol Newtson, the circuit clerk of Woodford County, who she can hire and not hire,” Dluski said.

“He and I can sit down and discuss it and get the state’s attorney involved, too.”

At least two other elected county officials — Clerk Debbie Harms and Treasurer Melissa Andrews — attended the committee meeting.