Newspapaer Endorsements

The Dailyherald Newspaper has an interesting editorial regarding the political endorsement process.  The editorial explains about the weighty responsibility it has to engage the public.  The editorial claims they don’t issue endorsements lightly.  They separate the endorsements from their reporting and reporters.
They state the mission of any newspaper is to make the world a better place.  Most of that contribution is in the independent reporting they do.
In 2006 the Dailyherald Editorial Board had an opportunity to endorse a candidate that had a proven track of working to help the residents of DuPage.  They had the opportunity to endorse an individual that had a perfect attendance record at the DuPage Water Commission.  The Dailyherald had the opportunity to endorse an intelligent candidate that had the common sense to realize in 2006 the problems the DuPage Water Commission was headed in.  Not only did this candidate recognize the problem the candidate had a solution.  This candidate said the sales tax should be abated and the DuPage Water Commission should fall under the direction of the DuPage County Board.  This idea was presented to the Dailyherald Editorial Board in 2006 and they frowned upon the idea. The same plan former Senator Cronin and current DuPage County Board Chairman Cronin introduced to the legislature which the Dailyherald praised
The Dailyherald endorsed this candidates opponent even though it was clear in the process that the opponent did not understand the way the Bond Ordinance or the referendum read nor did the Dailyherald Editorial Board.  The opponent was under the same false idea that the sales tax was to be used for operations and maintenance of the water commission when in fact the sales tax was to be use to pay off the GO Bonds.  The water rate charged by the water commission was to be used to cover operations.
This Candidate recognized that the DuPage Water Commission was just an extra layer of government and a way to dilute tax payer money.  An entity that know one knew about or how are tax dollars where being squandered.
The Dailyherald Editorial Board will have the opportunity to make an endorsement again in the DuPage County Board 2 race.  Hopefully,  the Daiyherald Editorial staff will be better informed this time around and endorse the candidate with a proven track record of doing what is right in DuPage County since 2002.
That candidate is me, Liz Chaplin, and I would appreciate the opportunity to expand on my success at the DuPage Water Commission, and bring that same commitment and focus to do what is right for all the other issues facing the residents of DuPage County. 

No dual role for DuPage board members

I agree with the opinion and would think this applies to the DuPage Water Commission as well.  This has been stated for years.  Let’s see where this goes.  This is a great way for Chairman Cronin to take over the DuPage Water Commission.

Commission Appointments

Two named to DuPage Water Commission
Sun staff January 6, 2011 12:46PM
The reconfiguring of the DuPage Water Commission is nearing an end.
DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin has announced his final two recommendations for the board: David C. Russo of Winfield and Christopher Janc of Elmhurst.
Russo is co-owner of the development company Creekside Partners. Janc works as a vice president and banker with J.P. Morgan Wealth Management.
The DuPage County Board still needs to approve the choices, and may vote on the pair next week.
Last year, as a state senator, Cronin drafted the legislation that required the resignation of every commissioner on Jan. 1. The move came after the commission faced criticism for the undetected draining of its $69 million cash reserve fund in 2009.
Cronin’s four other appointments to the board include Laura Crawford, president and CEO of the Downers Grove Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Brad Webb, part of the Packey Webb Ford family business and a candidate in last February’s Republican primary for the District 4 nomination to the County Board won by incumbent JR McBride; Daniel Loftus, an engineer who has been active in the District 99 Plus Education Foundation; and Michael Scheck, a construction specialist and sales director at Scheck Industries.
“Frankly, the No. 1 criteria was their ability,” said Cronin, “So whether or not they had experience in engineering, business, finance, accounting, that was the No. 1 consideration.”
Cronin said he did make an effort to get Democrats involved on the board, and said he even spoke with Liz Chaplin, who stepped down from the commission this summer, possibly for the chairmanship.
Chaplin said she received only a letter asking about her interest in serving on the commission.
“To me, maybe it might have been a miscommunication, because I probably would have seriously considered the chairmanship,” said Chaplin. “But I wouldn’t have gone back to just being a commissioner, because I really wouldn’t have any authority.”
Instead, Jim Zay, who has served on the Water Commission since July 2008, will be the new chairman.
“He is a County Board member, which allows me to have a very good connection because I will see him regularly,” said Cronin. “It will allow me to keep closer tabs on what’s going on there, to be more engaged and more influential.”
Cronin said his appointment of six new commissioners out of his seven possible appointments “fulfills the intent and spirit of the law.”
Municipal appointments to the Water Commission, however, have not seen as much turnover as those from the county.
Woodridge Mayor William Murphy, who has served on the commission since January 2004, and Carol Stream Mayor Frank Saverino, who has served on the commission since July 2007, were both reappointed.
So were Naperville Councilman Richard Furstenau and Wheaton Councilman Phillip Suess, Both Suess and Furstenau were first appointed in 2010.
New municipal appointments include Itasca Mayor Jeff Pruyn and Villa Park Village President Thomas Cullerton.
The first meeting of the new Water Commission board will be Jan. 13.
Created in 1992, the commission purchases Lake Michigan water from Chicago and both sells and transfers the water to 24 DuPage County municipalities and unincorporated areas of the county.

DuPage Water Commission

A slew of mistakes and bad decisions led to the DuPage Water Commission completely depleting its reserve funds, according to the 64-page confidential forensic audit report obtained by the Daily Herald.
The report was compiled by the commission’s special counsel Jenner & Block, which was hired after the missing reserves were discovered in October, 2009. They did not find evidence of any illegal activities.
The commission distributes Lake Michigan water to more than two dozen municipalities and agencies.
The report chronicles the negligence of former financial administrator Max Richter, lackadaisical financial oversight by former General Manager Bob Martin and the internal division among the six municipal-appointed commissioners and the six county-appointed commissioners that helped keep the fiscal errors from being revealed.
The report was released to the commission March 2. In its wake, Martin resigned last week after 23 years with the commission, and Treasurer Richard Thorn resigned Tuesday. The water commission has yet to make the report public.
To avoid a repeat, the report makes several recommendations. They include appointing future commissioners with financial expertise, making the treasurer a paid nonstaff position responsible solely to the commission, more detailed and consistent financial reporting, restricting access to accounting programs and segregating financial duties regarding depositing and reporting.
Bad accounting is essentially the root for the spending of the commission’s entire reserves that were falsely reported to be at $109 million in 2007, but were actually just $69 million. Believing they were flush with cash, the commission approved a $40 million rebate to municipalities and a rate reduction in February 2007. That depleted the reserves to $29 million, but commissioners believed there was more than double that amount left in the reserves. A capital improvement plan was approved that spent the remaining funds. Declining sales tax revenues that were sometimes spent on operations against commission policy, faltering investments and the sale of water to customers at a rate cheaper than it was being purchased from Chicago also bled the commission’s funds, the report states.
But it was Richter’s “intentional misconduct and gross negligence” that investigators say is chiefly to blame for the fiasco, though the report states “there is no clear and convincing evidence of fraud.”
Richter’s time
Hired in 2005 as the commission’s third financial adviser since its inception in 1985 – and second in less than a year – Richter received good reviews from Martin during his first two years, according to the report. But by 2008, his performance began to slip and it was noted in later reviews that Richter “needed to make fewer errors in financial reporting.”
Richter had been hired amid a state legislature-approved $75 million “raid” of the commission’s reserves by the county, the report noted. For five years starting in 2003, the county was to receive $15 million a year. Richter apparently didn’t have a firm grasp of the situation and his 2007 budget forecasts included a continuation of the $15 million payments to the county essentially in perpetuity.
That error was caught by Commissioner Allan Poole who wrote to Martin in December 2006 apprising him of the Richter’s “snafu.” But instead of just deleting the entry, Richter added $15 million to the previous year’s beginning balance. That move began the over-inflation of the commission’s reserve fund. Three more accounting errors that added phantom $15 million and $12 million entries to reserves while subtracting $2 million created the illusion of $40 million extra in reserves, according to the report.
Richter’s failure to fully implement his department’s transition from financial reporting based on Excel spreadsheets to an accounting software package also allowed the mistakes to grow and fester, the report states.
These errors wouldn’t come to light until Richter was placed on a four-week medical leave in September 2009. Martin brought the commission’s original financial administrator Rick Skiba back to handle finances while Richter was out. It was Skiba who uncovered the reserve depletion that forced the commission to take out a $30 million loan in December to cover costs and consider another $40 million loan pay all of its construction debt.
Richter was fired in October after being confronted about the accounting mistakes by Martin and the commission’s attorney, according to the report. Several commissioners said Richter did not receive any severance package and will not collect a pension.
But the report doesn’t stop blame with Richter; it indicates Martin and the commission had a hand in exacerbating the damage done by Richter.
Current members of the commission said they could not discuss the confidential report. Attempts to reach Richter and Martin were unsuccessful.
Internal strife
Martin had been with the commission as assistant to the general manager from 1987 to 2004. When the commission’s original general manager stepped down, Martin threw his hat in the ring for the post and told then-commission Chairman Michael Vondra that he would leave the commission if he didn’t get the commission’s top job, the report states. He was the interim general manager while a nationwide search was conducted.
Martin was selected over four other candidates by a split vote of the commission in 2005. The report states that municipal appointees voted in favor of Martin, while county appointees voted against him. The tie was broken by the commission chairman, who is appointed by the county.
“We heard from virtually everyone we interviewed about the division on the (commission) between county and municipal factions and observed it ourselves during board meetings,” the author of the report wrote in one of the document’s footnotes.
The division stems from the county getting $75 million of the commission’s reserves and fear by municipal appointees of a “second raid” of the reserves by the county, the report states.
County appointees argued against Martin because he lacked a financial and accounting background. He has an engineering background. He told the board he would make up for any accounting deficiencies by hiring a “competent financial administrator to report to him,” according to the report.
The report paints Martin as hands-off manager when it came to financial matters, saying he “did not meaningfully supervise the financial administrator.” The report also indicates Martin could have discovered the reserve depletion in March 2009 “by simply reading the treasurer’s report.” When interviewed for the forensic audit, Martin said he relied on the commission’s attorney and Richter’s underlings to catch some of the accounting mistakes because he busied himself “putting out fires.”
As part of his severance agreement, Martin will be paid a half year’s salary amounting to more than $90,000 and a full year’s insurance coverage.
Meanwhile, the commission is chastised in the report for failing to “place qualified individuals in the general manager or treasurer positions.” The report calls the commission’s finance committee “meaningless,” because it “had no greater access to information than other board members and did not exercise significant oversight of financial statements or projections.”
Some longtime commissioners like Poole and county-appointee Liz Chaplin are singled out for praise in the report for their efforts to try to alert the commission of the financial problems only to be rebuked by staff or fellow commissioners.
The commission’s auditing firm escaped substantial blame because the investigation revealed the firm was never given any of the inaccurate spreadsheets Richter created, “though they, too, made mistakes,” according to the report.

Chicago Tribune Editorial

$$ down the drain
March 24, 2010
It’s good that taxpayers here enjoy dumping billions of dollars into redundant or unneeded local governments: Illinois has 7,000 of them, far more than any other state. Many are creations of state government, which means lawmakers could snuff them out and remove some of the tax burden that falls on Illinoisans. This page has written often about the need to sunset or consolidate smaller units of government to save money, yes, but also to increase transparency.
State legislators can give this overdue mission a kick-start by converting the DuPage Water Commission, which purchases and pipes Lake Michigan to two dozen county communities, into a county department. Consider:
In 2007, the DuPage Water Commission rebated $40 million to the municipalities it serves and embarked on an ambitious — and costly — capital improvement plan.
That level of spending was high, but it seemed that the commission could afford the outlays. It had an enviable $109 million in reserve funds.
There was just one problem. Former financial administrator Max Richter had overstated the size of the reserve fund by, gulp, $40 million. Why didn’t anyone catch the accounting error? Richter operated with almost no oversight.
General Manager Robert Martin, who resigned in mid-March with a six-month severance valued at $90,000, was too busy “putting out fires,” according to a recent audit of the commission, to watch over Richter.
Commissioners Allan Poole, who discovered a $15 million accounting error by Richter in 2006, and Liz Chaplin, a County Board appointee, tried to raise an alarm numerous times about the opacity of the commission’s finances. But Poole and Chaplin were ignored on a board cleaved by a rivalry between municipal appointees and county appointees.
So the commission blithely decided to spend money that, we know today, it didn’t have. Big problem. Guess what comes next:
Water rates now are set to rise 21 percent in May. The commission took out a $30 million loan in December. And it may have to borrow an additional $40 million to pay for the infrastructure upgrades it can no longer afford.
In other words, DuPage taxpayers are stuck with the ripple effects. “There’s not accountability. There’s not transparency. It’s just not appropriate in this day and age,” says State Sen. Dan Cronin, R-Elmhurst.
Cronin, the Republican candidate for DuPage County Board chairman in the November election, recently introduced a bill in Springfield to convert the Water Commission into a county department.
That’s a smart idea. Folding the commission would cut costs and bring greater accountability and oversight.
Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation of Chicago, says doing away with an independent DuPage Water Commission is long overdue: “What might have made sense when they were first establishing which municipalities would have access to Lake Michigan water — the model that was used to start up the commission — is no longer the most efficient method for operating this government function.”

More from 2006 but still as relevant

DATE: 09/21/2006 09:18:34 PM
<a href=”“>State Senator and DuPage County Republican Chair Kirk Dillard</a> described <a href=””>DuPage Water Commissioner Liz Chaplin’s</a> appointment to the Commission as a “great choice.”  When <a href=”“>Republican DuPage County Board Chair Robert Schillerstrom</a> appointed Liz Chaplin to the <a href=””>DuPage Water Commission</a> he said,
“Ms. Chaplin has been a strong champion for the families of Downers Grove who have had to live with this public health crisis [of polluted well water].  She has worked tirelessly with the County and the Water Commission to find a workable solution to this complex problem.  Her voice on the Commission will ensure that the Water Commission continues to address the concerns of all the citizens of DuPage County.â€
Now Liz Chaplin is running for DuPage County Board District 2.  Liz, who is the only DuPage Water Commissioner to attend every meeting since she started September 2002, is endorsed for DuPage County Board by the outgoing <a href=”“>GOP District 2 County Board member Irene Stone</a>, a 20-year veteran of the board, who says,
“I worked with Liz to help resolve  the ‘contaminated water problem’ in Lisle. She exercises as much determination and perseverance as I have during my tenure in office, if not more, and I can testify to the fact that this is what it takes to get things done, particularly on controvertial issues. 
Liz is honest, she is sincere, she is concerned and she cares about the people.  And she has proved it! Please take the time to <a href=”“>read her biography</a>.  We need people like Liz in government.”  [Editor Note: Out of convenience I have supplied the WurfWhile biography in the link – not the original Irene Stone refers to which was a pdf campaign biography.]
Now, despite years of distinguished government service with the DuPage Water Commission, despite the endorsement from the outgoing 20-year veteran DuPage County Board member, despite the fact that Republicans Kirk Dillard and Robert Schillerstrom both encouraged Liz to run for DuPage County Board, Republican County Chair Kirk Dillard believes it’s right to disparage Liz in today’s <a href=”“>Chicago Tribune</a> because she decided to run for the all-Republican DuPage County Board …as a Democrat.
Liz hasn’t changed her views, she’s remained steadfast.  When she told Republican officeholders of her plans they begged her to run as a Republican, offering her their support if she would and telling her that she was a “good” candidate as long as she accepted the GOP label.  Liz was polite but stands firm.  Liz is a Democrat, one who has tremendous respect for and has successfully worked with officials of both parties, but one who will run as a Democrat.  It would have been easier, much easier for Liz to have taken the Republican label and waltzed to victory.  It would have been easy, but it wouldn’t have been honest.
As DuPage County Board member Irene Stone said, Liz Chaplin “is honest, she is sincere, she is concerned and she cares about the people.  And she has proved it!”  
In July 2004, Kirk Dillard considered running for U.S. Senate telling reporters that he could beat then candidate <a href=””>Barack Obama</a>.  State Senator Dillard decided ultimately not to run.  Instead Democrat Barack Obama’s honesty, sincerity and qualifications stood in sharp contrast to his Republican opponent Alan Keyes, as did Obama’s ability to acknowledge and work with others of opposing views.  Keyes’ attacks on Obama failed to resonate with DuPage voters because they wanted competent government that would work together for them, not government that would fight against itself, and fail DuPage.  As a prominent party official, I would hope that Republican Chairman Dillard would recognize the qualities in a candidate that DuPage residents seek.
Today it seems that the lesson of DuPage voters supporting Barack Obama is lost on Kirk Dillard, leader of DuPage Republicans, who believes that people he worked with, befriended and supported before because they were qualified must be mocked, cast aside and disparaged during campaigns.  In today’s paper he describes 20-year veteran Irene Stone’s endorsement of Liz Chaplin for DuPage County Board as lacking intelligence – and this after having months ago endorsed Stone for the position.  In the case of Liz, whose politeness and kindness is unmistakable when you meet her, Dillard dismisses her “as a woman candidate with some limited local government experience [that] might look good.” Dillard’s attack on Irene Stone and Liz Chaplin, who has local, county, state and federal experience, is inaccurate, rude and a real disservice to DuPage County.  Better that Chairman Dillard stick to the issues or simply say nothing, then use attack politics and partisanship over progress and civility.
Perhaps Kirk Dillard could learn a little from <a href=”“>Liz Chaplin about working with everyone to do the people’s business</a> – which is the reason we elect public officials.  As Liz says in the <b>Chicago Tribune</b> article,
“I really think we need to get back to good government here and stop the politicking….  Coming in as a Democrat on the County Board would be a great opportunity for DuPage, because any time you have a one-party system, the checks and balances aren’t there.”
To me the lack of checks and balances sounds like a national problem – similar to <a href=”“>the DuPage County deficit resulting from poor planning, and talk of balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable in DuPage</a>.  DuPage County residents who care about results would benefit from more honest, sincere people like Liz Chaplin, who will work with members of both parties to bring “good government” back to DuPage.  Vote for a DuPage County that works.  Support Liz Chaplin.

From my 2006 run but still relevant today


It was July 2001 and Liz Chaplin was sitting outside reading a story in the localSun newspaper as her three children played in a wading pool. The story was about underground chemical contaminants from The Lockformer Company that were found spreading east towards her home in Downers Grove. The Chaplin home used a private well for their water. Concerned Liz called the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) in the first of what would be many calls and meetings with the agency over the years. The IEPA told her that her home was not affected – there was no water contamination east of I-355. When she asked if they had tested east of I-355 the IEPA said no – the same answer they gave her when she asked if they would test her well.
Still concerned, Liz called the DuPage County Health Department who told her they did not test private wells for volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), the type of pollution coming from Lockformer. Unwilling to ignore a potential problem, Liz turned to the Yellow Pages and found a private environmental firm that came out to test her water. Within two weeks she received a call. Her family’s water supply had almost three times the legal limit of TCE and PCE. Both the environmental firm and Liz called the IEPA, starting an investigation in her neighborhood. Liz started telling neighbors of the contamination, leading to the development of the Citizens Advisory Group, where she served as president. They held meetings, gathered petition signatures, made phone call after phone call, sent letters to all levels of government and attended local and state level meetings. For two years it was Chaplin’s full time job.
After establishing themselves, it took a little over two years to get Lake Michigan water to the 800 affected homes at terms the residents found acceptable – having all costs covered for their new water connections. While they negotiated an agreement, about 70 of the homes had to pay for their own water hook-ups for health reasons or property sales. Liz continues to try to recover funds for families that paid out of pocket.
What Liz did is simply amazing. With little official encouragement, spurred on by her concern for her community, she ended up helping residents reach a deal and cooperate with the county to provide safe water hook-ups to their homes.
But Liz Chaplin has done more than that. More than helping 800 families get safe water, including helping Downers Grove gain a state grant for $700,000.00 to pay for extending water mains, her local efforts have made things better for residents of Illinois and DuPage County, including:
– Spurring passage of the Illinois Ground Water Protection Act amendment which now requires the Illinois Department of Public Health to notify residents within 60 days of suspected contamination so that private wells can be tested; and
– Recommending that the DuPage County Health Department test private wells for VOCs – which the Department is in the process of doing.
While some people might consider these achievements enough and rest on their laurels, Liz has continued her public service helping to improve DuPage County. In 2002 Liz was appointed to the DuPage Water Commission, where she pushed to get regular communications (currently monthly) from the Commission to all its customers and DuPage County highlighting information from each month’s meetings. She also initiated a Mission Statement for the organization – helping to clarify its purpose. Speaking about her open government philosophy, Liz told me, “I really feel it is important to have open communication form of government and that information be shared.” It is a lesson born from experience.
There are a lot of things voters look for in elected officials – and many times candidates fall short. Liz’s record demonstrates that she takes initiative, works tenaciously building broad consensus to achieve results and believes that open communication is necessary for good government. It’s rare that voters get a chance to elect someone with Liz’s qualifications and qualities. DuPage County Board District 2 voters should take advantage of Liz Chaplin’s candidacy – when you find a good one you don’t let them go.

Dupage County Board Chairman and Board Members: Eliminate Pensions and Health Be… See More

DuPage County Friends, 
I just created a petition addressed to the DuPage County Board Chairman and Board Members: Eliminate Pensions and Health Benefits for Elected DuPage County Officials, because I care deeply about this very important issue.  
There are several reasons why I put this petition together.  First being that the County Board Chairman and Board Members positions are part-time and they do receive a very good salary.  The Chairman and Board Members just took away some of the county employees benefits in order to make them more in line with the private sector.  Most importantly is that the current Chairman and Board are considering consolidating certain government bodies  and services all in the name of saving tax dollars.  
I believe that asking the Chairman and the Board Members to put the question on the ballot for the General Election in November 2012 is a reasonable request.  Let the tax payer decide if we want to fund the pensions and benefits of part-time elected officials.
I’m trying to collect 250 signatures, and I could really use your help. 
To read more about what I’m trying to do and to sign my petition, click here:
It’ll just take a minute! 
Once you’re done, please ask your friends to sign the petition as well. Grassroots movements succeed because people like you are willing to spread the word!