McCarthyism comes to East Central Illinois

AUTHOR’S NOTE: One of the members of the Vermilion County (IL) Board, Edwin Barney, Jr. (D-Westville), is my cousin.

Even on the websites of the local newspapers here in East Central Illinois, I’ve found it hard to find good information about local politics, since most of the local political news reporting around here has a right-wing slant to it and/or isn’t all that detailed.

Well, I was looking through a email inbox that I rarely use, and I stumbled upon a press release by the Vermilion County Democratic Party, issued last month, about the politically-motivated firing of Nikki Bogart, who was the Financial Services Director for the Vermilion County Board for seven years before being terminated by far-right Vermilion County Board Chairman Mike Marron (R-Fithian), apparently because Bogart ran as a Democrat for county auditor in 2012 (Bogart lost to Republican office jumper Tom O’Shaugnessy, who was elected to a circuit court judgeship last year). Bogart was fired by Boss Marron despite the fact that Bogart had never been officially reprimanded prior to her firing, as well as the fact that Boss Marron had praised Bogart by name for her work on the 2014-2015 county budget. Bogart filed an appeal in an effort, but the grievance committee had not been convened at the time the press release was issued a little over a month ago. (In case you’re wondering, this is the only time that I’ve ever received any kind of email containing official Vermilion County Democratic Party documents of any kind).

Sadly, Bogart isn’t the only person to either be fired or pressured out of a job because of Boss Marron’s reign of terror in Vermilion County. In one instance, a qualified mental health professional was either fired or effectively forced out of a job by Boss Marron and the hostile, hyperpartisan work environment that Boss Marron has created throughout Vermilion County government and was replaced by mother of the county board chairman.

Vermilion County lacks an official chief executive of the county, although Boss Marron thinks that he can act as the de facto chief executive of the county because he ran unopposed last year in a county board district that includes one-ninth of the county (specifically, his district includes the west central and north central parts of the county) and was elected Vermilion County Board Chairman by his fellow Republicans, who control the county board. Instead of doing anything to make Vermilion County a better place to live, Boss Marron is doing everything he can to purge Democrats from what few positions they hold in the county government for purely partisan reasons. In fact, what Boss Marron is doing is eerily similar to the witchhunts against alleged communists who weren’t communists by former U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-WI) in the mid-20th century. The only thing that is missing is Boss Marron presiding over a special county board committee conducting a public shaming and character assassination of someone who Boss Marron disagrees with for some reason.

Quite frankly, Vermilion County needs a directly-elected county executive, because I don’t think that Boss Marron could win a county-wide election in a hypothetical county executive race because of his highly vindictive style of politics, even against a stubborn-headed progressive like me and with a local Democratic Party organization that could be best described as barely existent.

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