New Township Assessor In Urbana Backs Off From Controversial Hire

Cunningham Township building, Urbana IL

The Cunningham Township government offices in Urbana.

Travis Stansel/Illinois Public Media

The new township assessor in Urbana says the controversial chief deputy he hired this week will leave by the end of the month. Cunningham Township Assessor Wayne Williams says a new committee will now oversee his office’s hiring process — and that two longtime employees he fired this week will be welcome to re-apply.

In a news release issued Friday by Cunningham Township, Williams said he had reasons for firing the two employees and hiring Joe Meents, a former Champaign County employee facing felony charges for improper use of a county credit card. But he said he understands the need for public officials “to serve with openness and transparency,” as well as the importance of maintaining a “collaborative relationship with the Mayor and Township Board.”

Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin will serve on the new hiring committee, which will also include Cunningham Township Supervisor Danielle Chynoweth. Marlin said the Urbana City Council will hold a special closed-door meeting on Monday to discuss the matter.

“I’ve received many phone calls from members of the public who are very concerned about how this went down and the processes that were followed,” said Marlin, “and that’s what we’ll be looking at Monday night.”

The news release annoucing William's decision included words of praise from Township Supervisor Chynoweth for the assessor's decision to end Meents' employment: "While people who have made mistakes deserve a second chance, in the case of Joe Meentz, it is best to wait until after his court case is resolved.”

Meents resigned from a job with the Champaign County assessor's office in 2016, when he was investigated for alleged personal use of a county credit. While Meents paid back the money he spent, he was later charged with official misconduct. The News-Gazette reports that no date has been set for a trial.

Urbana council members will be meeting in their capacity as the Cunningham Township Board for their special meeting about the assessor, this coming Monday at 6 PM at the Urbana City Building.

Regular meetings of the township board, city council and city council Committee of the Whole are scheduled to follow at 7 PM.

Story source: WILL