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KRMA board member resigning

February 22, 2019 GMT

KANKAKEE — Kankakee Alderman Dennis Baron announced this week he would resign next month from the board that oversees the regional sewage treatment plant.

He will leave as the Kankakee River Metropolitan Agency board is embroiled in a dispute with Richard Simms, the agency’s former longtime executive director. The disagreement is over $700,000 that the agency gave Simms’ firm for software that reportedly does not work. No evidence has emerged publicly that the board ever approved the software project.

After more than three decades on the City Council, Baron, a lawyer, decided last year against running for alderman in the April election. His resignation letter for KRMA was read aloud at the agency’s monthly board meeting. Baron praised his colleagues and wished the agency well.

Board members returned with kind words.

Kankakee Alderman Carl Brown, a board member, said Baron has taught him a lot while they have served together on the council and KRMA board. He said they have become friends.

“Thank you so much for your insight,” Brown said.

Kankakee Mayor and KRMA member Chasity Wells-Armstrong praised Baron for his leadership.

“It has been invaluable for me as a new mayor to consult you,” she said.

Bradley Mayor Bruce Adams, the board’s chairman, said Baron hesitated to give legal advice during KRMA meetings. But Adams said he often spoke to Baron outside of official sessions to get his opinions.

Baron’s last day with KRMA will be March 31, two days before the city election.

Wells-Armstrong, who has the power to nominate Baron’s replacement, did not indicate who she would select.

Board members get $600 per monthly meeting, which works out to $7,200 a year. Members’ pay was increased to $600 a meeting, from $50, in 2007.

Even though all but one of KRMA’s seven members are elected officials, it was not certain Baron would resign once he left the council. Former Kankakee Mayor Don Green stayed on as KRMA’s board chairman for another eight years after he left as mayor in 2009.

At Tuesday’s monthly KRMA meeting, the board closed the doors for 20 minutes to discuss “probable or imminent litigation.” That may have been about the dispute with Simms, but members did not say.

Board members also said they discussed in closed session whether to disclose closed session minutes from January to September last year. They decided against doing so, citing the possibility of litigation as the reason.

Also at the meeting, KRMA’s accountant, Larry Ohm of Smith, Koelling, Dykstra & Ohm, gave the board a positive report on the agency’s finances, saying they were improving. Ohm said the staff was “doing a particularly good job running the plant effectively.”

“That should be in the newspaper,” Chairman Adams said, looking at a reporter in the audience.