GOP wins battle to lead McLean County Board on Democratic member’s absence

Catherine Metsker of Carlock becomes board chair
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 9:00 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MCLEAN COUNTY (25News Now) - An expected stalemate whether a Republican or Democrat should become chair of the McLean County Board did not materialize Thursday evening because a Democratic board member was absent and broke a tie.

On a 9-8 vote, District 1 Republican Catherine Metsker from Carlock was chosen to replace John McIntyre, who recently retired. Metsker defeated Democratic Vice Chair Elizabeth Johnston from District 5, a move that the local Democratic Party called a “shameless, hypocritical, purely partisan power-grab.”

The board is evenly split with nine members from each party, but District 6 Democrat Jack Abraham was not in attendance. Republicans, with one more vote, denied Abraham’s request to participate remotely. Then, GOP members adopted a rule change allowing the chair to be chosen based on a majority of members present instead of a majority of the entire board.

25News reached out to Abraham for comment. One of his colleagues said Abraham called in sick.

“We have always accommodated anyone who is sick or had an emergency, and I think that would set a poor precedent to deny that for his evening,” Johnston said.

McLean County Board Vice Chair Elizabeth Johnston.
McLean County Board Vice Chair Elizabeth Johnston.(McLean County government/YouTube)

Another Democrat, Lea Cline from District 8, accused Republicans of playing political games.

“I’d like to remind my colleagues how many times we have approved remote attendance by several members of the Republican Party in just the last several months, even when there were very difficult issues on the agenda,” said Cline.

Metsker has been on the board for nine years and most recently has been finance committee chair. Republican District 10 Board member Chuck Erickson said Metzker has more experience than Johnston.

Metsker was seen removing Johnston’s nameplate from the chair’s desk and replacing it with hers. Johnston had been the temporary chair and would have continued in that role had there been a deadlock.

McLean County Board Chair Catherine Metsker
McLean County Board Chair Catherine Metsker(McLean County government/YouTube)

Shortly after Metsker’s selection, McLean County Democratic Party Chair Patrick Cortesi issued a statement.

“In a shameless, hypocritical, purely partisan power-grab, the Republicans refused to allow a Democratic member to participate in the meeting remotely – despite that member providing proper notification and meeting the guidelines for remote participation, and despite Republican members of the board being allowed to participate remotely regularly.

Tonight’s games by the GOP are neither responsive to the wishes of the residents of McLean County who elected a split board, nor respectful of the collaborative, bi-partisan spirit prioritized and practiced by John McIntyre and Elizabeth Johnston as they worked out an agreement following the historic 2022 election and led a split board the past several months.”