Pact puts election panel under new DuPage ethics rules
Updated: August 21, 2012 1:28AM
WHEATON — The DuPage County Election Commission was the last of the county’s scandal-plagued bodies to be eviscerated and rebuilt in the recent past. But it’s the first of 24 county agencies to partner directly with its ethics officer and the new investigator general for enforcement of the county ethics ordinance.
The County Board has followed the commission’s lead in adopting an agreement under which the election board’s ethics rules will be enforced by the county’s officer charged with that duty, backed up by the newly appointed investigator general whose job is to look into reports of suspected ethical lapses, through the county’s ethics ordinance.
Approved by the election panel earlier this month, the measure enables the agency to meet consultant Crowe Horwath’s recommendation that it adhere to the broader ethics guidelines.
Commission chairwoman Cathy Terrill said the election board is “a creature of statute, but it is not a unit of government,” so the accord had to be a memorandum of understanding rather than an intergovernmental agreement.
Terrill and her two fellow commissioners took their positions when the former commission was disbanded after Crowe Horwath identified numerous flaws in its ethics and purchasing practices. The county, which launched a broad transparency initiative several years ago, previously oversaw the dismantling and reconfiguration of the DuPage Water Commission and the DuPage Housing Authority when misspending practices were discovered at those two organizations after they had drained away tens of millions of dollars in public funds.
The previous Election Commission adopted ethics guidelines three years ago that came under fire from local leaders of the Ballot Integrity Project and other residents. Among their criticisms was that the initiative lacked teeth by inadequately restricting former employees from going to work for vendors involved in work for the commission. The measure passed 2 to 1 in December 2009.
Commissioner Christopher Hage was pleased the election panel this time was ahead of the pack in coming under the county’s ethical umbrella.
“I’m glad we foresaw that pothole there and kind of cleared that up,” he said.
The County Board welcomed the commission’s decision.
“I’d like to see us have this agreement with the other bodies,” said board member Donald Puchalski.
Those groups are being encouraged to follow suit. County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said Crowe Horwath’s evaluation of the two dozen appointed boards and commissions earlier this year revealed an unforeseen deficiency, virtually across the board.
“I think it’s safe to say we were all surprised to learn that many of these agencies did not have an ethics policy in place,” he said.