ROCKFORD - The Winnebago County Forest Preserve Board has a new president, after the board voted to demote now former president Randy Olson, Wednesday night. The vote tally was 5 - 2 in favor of ouster.
The board voted to vote on ousting Olson at their July 18th board meeting and had strong support from four members. That fifth and final vote was a wild-card vote, left to board members Gloria Lind and Cheryl Maggio. Before voting, board member Lind asked Olson to resign for the credibility of the board. Olson responded saying that they were already going to vote on it anyway, so the board continued as planned and voted for removal.
Lind considers herself great friends with Olson but says she needed to do what she was elected to do. She says she needs to represent the people.
"I belong to a lot of clubs and everybody asked me, 'Please vote to remove him,'" said Lind.
Olson had no comment when leaving Wednesday night's board meeting. He remains on the board, but after the vote he switched seats with then vice president, Mary McNamara Bernsten. She assumes his position now. Bernsten says she is optimistic about the board, even as the board continues with Olson still serving on the board, just not in a position of leadership.
"His position on the board and the work that he'll do for us is entirely up to him," said Bernsten. "I think our board is more focused than ever to stay mission focused and to work in the best interest of the forest preserve district."
The controversial public safety hire will be addressed at the board's next meeting on September 5. Instead of defunding the position, as the resolution passed in July requested, the board will now vote to remove the position altogether. The new president says she just wants the board to move forward.
"We need to focus on the budget, finalizing the budget, implementing strategic plan and then eventually finding a new executive director," Bernsten said.
Lind agrees this board will be able to move past this blip.
"This forest preserve board will be influential, and will do what's right, and we will show these people that they voted for us and they were right in doing so," Lind said.
Related to the public safety hire, the Attorney General's office has launched an investigation into whether the Open Meetings Act was violated when Olson brought the board into closed session to relay the information of the hiring of Theresa Rawaillot, the former Roscoe cop hired for the newly created position. The complaint lodged with the AG's office lists the offending party at the Winnebago County Forest Preserve Board, making it unclear as to who is actually being targeted in the investigation.