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Search reopened for Mental Health Board leader

Committee also takes step to fill 5th recent vacancy on board

Published: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 5:05 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, April 25, 2013 10:55 a.m. CDT

The McHenry County Mental Health Board is extending its search for a new executive director after one of the two finalists for the job dropped out.

And when new finalists are chosen, a familiar face known for speaking his mind might be one of the Mental Health Board members who makes the final choice.

The County Board’s Public Health and Human Services Committee voted Wednesday morning, 4-3, to recommend filling a vacant Mental Health Board seat with former McHenry County College Trustee Scott Summers.

The recommendation came the morning after a Tuesday ­evening Mental Health Board meeting in which it was announced that one of the two finalists for the open top job took another offer.

Reopening the search with the same firm hired last year to find a replacement will be less expensive, committee member Paula Yensen, D-Lake in the Hills, said Wednesday morning. Yensen holds the County Board’s voting seat on the nine-member Mental Health Board.

Five Mental Health Board seats have changed hands since the search began to replace former Executive Director Sandy Lewis, who resigned to take a job with Virginia Commonwealth University.

If appointed by the full County Board, Summers will fill the unexpired term of Sam Tenuto, who left the Mental Health Board to take a job with McHenry-based Pioneer Center for Human Services, which receives Mental Health Board funding.

Critics have alleged in recent years that the Mental Health Board has become a bureaucracy that spends too much money on administration and overhead that instead should be disbursed to the more than two dozen agencies working with the mentally ill and disabled, which the board was created by voters to do.

Summers, of Harvard, served four years on the MCC board, which censured him in 2007 for speaking out against the college’s controversial and ultimately rejected plan to build a health and wellness center, and a minor-league baseball stadium that would generate the revenue to pay off the bonds.

Summers said he will hit the ground running and work as part of a team, but will never be afraid to speak his mind. He beat seven other applicants for the nomination.

“I’m honored and humbled as I often am when it comes to public appointments. There were a goodly number of excellent candidates, which makes me humbler,” Summers said.

Health Committee Chairwoman Donna Kurtz, also a former MCC trustee like Summers, said his experience in finance and law, along with his desire to ask tough questions, will be an asset. Kurtz, like Summers, was censured by the college board for publicly opposing the stadium proposal.

“People are looking for someone who is a leader, who has diverse skills and experience,” said Kurtz, R-Crystal Lake.

Kurtz, a longtime critic of the Mental Health Board, was put in a position to implement change when the County Board appointed her in January to head the committee in charge of filling its seats. The County Board also appointed Yensen, who has earned a reputation as a fiscal hawk, to hold its voting seat on the Mental Health Board.

The County Board in March filled three vacant seats with newcomers, denying former Mental Health Board President Lee Ellis reappointment. Tenuto was one of two former members who stepped down to take a job with an agency receiving taxpayer funds from the Mental Health Board.

Another member did not seek reappointment when her term expired Jan. 1, and former County Board liaison Mary Donner lost her 2012 re-election bid.

This radically changed Mental Health Board will have to decide later this year who gets the job of running the agency.

The Mental Health Board will stick with The Meyers Group, the Bethesda, Md., search firm it hired to find Lewis’ replacement. Yensen told the health committee Wednesday that the search to date has cost about $40,000.

Former Deputy Director Todd Schroll has served as the Mental Health Board’s interim executive director since Lewis left. Schroll has applied for the full-time job, but Mental Health Board officials have not commented on speculation that he is the second finalist.

Summers has run for Congress and Illinois state treasurer on the Green Party ticket, and lost his 2012 bid to run for County Board as a Democrat.

How they voted

Voting “yes” to appoint Summers were Chairwoman Donna Kurtz, R-Crystal Lake, and members John Hammerand, R-Wonder Lake; Sandra Fay Salgado, R-McHenry; and Michael Walkup, R-Crystal Lake. Members Paula Yensen, D-Lake in the Hills; Mary McCann, R-Woodstock; and Anna May Miller, R-Cary, voted “no.”

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