Rumors on the Internet

by , posted on Wednesday, June 9th, 2010 at 6:00 am

Don’t you just hate unsubstantiated rumors on the Internet? I know I do.

But you know what I hate even more? When you’ve been hearing the same unsubstantiated rumor in the real world for months on end from several “insiders” who should know (or should know better), when you are told flat-out by elected officials (not to be quoted, to be sure), that the rumors in question are “an open secret,” when you are even aware of newspaper columnists who have been hinting around the periphery of the story for quite some time and suspect strongly that they can not go on record because none of their sources will, and then you are told that the culmination of the series of rumors is “imminent.”

I’ve come to the conclusion that this is how unsubstantiated rumors on the Internet get started: By people like me who are sick of all the dithering around from individuals who either have the dirt and are so afraid of the powers-that-be that they refuse to go public, or are bound by some journalistic standard, or are just not able to name a source themselves, due to the excellent record of the powers-that-be in question for doing nothing that is strictly illegal, or for that matter written down. Which none of this really is.

Well, screw all that, here’s the rumor.

I first heard in April from a Kane County Board member (who of course is not to be named) that the reason Phil Bus’ position as Director of Kane County’s Development Department was not filled when he retired last December is that Kane County Board Chair Karen McConnnaughay is holding that position for Kane County Board Member and Vice Chair (and undoubted “friend of Karen,” as some have dubbed McC’s loyal minions) Cathy Hurlbut. The Kane County Board Member who first told me this story went on to say that the McC crowd would like it – oh, much – if the public buys the generally encouraged idea that the position is not being filled in order to save the taxpayers money, so as to ensure that the public does not perceive this as political cronyism, therefore jeopardizing their ability to hold on to the seat this November.

I asked something like “you mean hold on to the seat for the Republicans?” and the Board Member expressed the opinion that it was more like “hold on to it for ‘a friend of Karen’.” So the plan was to let Hurlbut win re-election to the seat in the fall, then resign, get appointed to Bus’ position by McC, and let McC appoint Hurlbut’s successor on the Kane County Board as well. A two-fer.

It took me approximately a day to find a second (and similarly not to be quoted) Kane County Board Member who would, without any prompting beyond “what’s up with Phil Bus’ postion?” repeat this rumor to me, detail by detail.

The only variation in their accounts being who, exactly, was the “friend of Karen” to be appointed to Hurlbut’s seat when Hurlbut wins the highest-paid-employee at Kane County lottery. Board Member #1 said rumor had it that it was to be Hurlbut’s husband. Board Member #2 said one of Hurlbut’s primary opponents, who had pulled out after being assured the gig was his merely for displaying enough courtesy to get out of Hurlbut’s way and on McC’s team.

Both of these sources were either unwilling or unable to name their source. Both gave an answer that indicated this rumor was something more or less known by “everyone” – an “open secret” so not something either could recall hearing in one place first. Could be. God knows I’ve heard the rumor now from several other, unelected, unofficial, sources, also not to be quoted, and also unsure where they heard it first.

So far, so much rumor.

And nothing I have been able to do from April to now has allowed me to solidify this rumor into something more than rumor. Not surprising, I suppose, since I have had several people at the County tell me “these people put nothing on paper, you’ll never nail it down.”

I have, by the way, done quite a lot to try to nail this one down, including taking a side-trip through both the existing and proposed ethics ordinances. And another side-trip through the side-show that is Bus’ old department – Development – at the County, which reports to…the Development Committee, chaired by Hurlbut. I’ve even filed a flurry of FOIA requests to try to figure out why Bus is working for the county as an independent contractor, at an amount carefully below the threshold that would require Board action. I hope to write about both side-trips in some detail and I’ve turned up quite a lot of detail that I find fascinating, although I will admit that many might find it quite the boring read, since there is nothing illegal going on. Me, I am beginning to be never-endingly fascinated by the level of cronyism, the concentration of power, and the resultant culture of intimidation, that is legal in Kane County. But that’s for another day, and another blog post.

For today I’m concerned with Hurlbut, and mostly I really am concerned that if no one is willing to spill the beans this will turn into a further consolidation of McC’s power, and one that the voters can’t do much about after the fact, after the election. And there is precious little, frankly, that the voters can do now, even if someone can substantiate this rumor, if what I heard yesterday should turn out to be true. So let’s move on.

On Sunday, I got a call from a friend who was driving by Mike Kenyon’s (chair of the Kane County Republican Party, and Kane County Board Member) house in South Elgin, who phoned to say that in Mr. Kenyon’s driveway were the cars of McC and Ken Shepro (1st Vice Chair of the Kane County Republicans and attorney for the Kane County Board) as well as several other “dark and expensive looking” cars.

Perfectly innocent Party meeting, or perhaps just an actual party? Maybe. It’s graduation season, perhaps Mr. Kenyon has a graduate at his house.

Then I got a call yesterday afternoon saying that Hurlbut is going to withdraw from her Kane County Board race, not least because of this piece by Jeff Ward, and will be replaced in the race by the Party, although it’s not quite clear to me how this will be done, as I was under the impression that it is too late to slate candidates. The caller suggested it’s no big deal, Hurlbut will get replaced on the ballot, one way or another, by a somewhat less-embarrassing friend of McC, will still get appointed to Bus’ vacant position after the election in November, this is just a bump in the road, a less messy way of hanging onto the seat for McC.

But, hey, it’s all rumor folks. And even if it turns out to be true, there’s nothing to see here, move along, this isn’t even unethical under the current terms of the Kane County ethics ordinance, much less illegal.

Rumor has it that this is just how the Kane County Board conducts our business.


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2 Responses to “Rumors on the Internet”

  1. IllinoisR_ says:

    nice post.

    From the regressive end of the Fox, I’ve never heard anything good about Cathy Hurlbut.

  2. Downtowner says:

    I’ve found it hard to discover anyone I could classify as a Hurlbut supporter.

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