Kendall County Coroner Ken Toftoy responded Tuesday to concerns surrounding the maternity leaves for his only full-time employee, who also is the County Board chairman’s wife.
Frequent County Board critic and watchdog Todd Milliron had questioned how Jacquie Purcell received what appears to be her normal pay throughout maternity leaves in 2010 and 2011, while Toftoy hired part-time workers to cover office administrative duties.
Both times, the short-term opening was not advertised, Toftoy said. He hired a friend Purcell suggested in 2010. In 2011, Toftoy hired a fellow active Republican Matthew Prochaska, who is running for County Board. Prochaska is secretary of the Kendall County Republican Central Committee, while Toftoy is the chairman, according to the party's website.
Toftoy also said Kendall County State’s Attorney Eric Weis assured him he had acted appropriately when the issue surfaced this spring.
In recent weeks, Milliron has questioned how Purcell could have banked enough sick and vacation time since she was hired in September 2004 to cover her apparent maternity leaves. The county’s employee handbook states each county employee receives 12 sick days a year and can allow up to 240 sick days to accumulate, according to the handbook Milliron provided. Employees who have worked for the county for seven to 14 years received 15 vacation days a year and can carry over no more than 22.5 vacation days each month, according to the handbook Milliron provided.
But Toftoy said he never required his lone full-time employee to request vacation using a standardized form. Rather, Purcell just tells him informally when she’ll be gone.
“I just write it down on the calendar: Jacquie’s taking this week,’” Toftoy said.
She rarely, if ever, uses sick days, Toftoy said. His office is flexible enough that if she is feeling under the weather, she can handle administrative work in the office and allow other deputy coroners to work in the field, Toftoy said.
Her son was born in July 2010, with her replacement receiving $3,345 in paychecks from April 29, 2010 to Nov. 16, 2010, according to information Milliron received through a Freedom of Information Act request. Purcell was not on-call for field investigations from July 7, 2010 to Nov. 8, 2010, according to Milliron.
More recently, Purcell’s daughter was born in August 2011, and Purcell was not on-call for field investigations between July 7, 2011 and Oct. 21, 2011, Milliron said. Prochaska earned $3,145 as a part-time administrative assistant between June 2011 and October 2011, according to documentation Milliron provided.
During both periods, Purcell never requested a formal maternity leave or unpaid time off through the Family and Medical Leave Act, Toftoy said. Rather, she just used all her sick and vacation time and then returned to work.
“I’ve tried to explain that to Todd (Milliron),” Toftoy said. “I’ve tried to explain that to other people.”