DuPage County Election Commission

For years Jean Kaczmarek had been warning elected officials about everything that was wrong with the DuPage Election Commission and for years Jean was ignored.  Jean Kaczmarek should be acknowledged for all her hard work and efforts!  Thank you Jean!

DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin is promising to take “swift action” to address issues raised in a report critical of the county election commission’s policies and practices.
The report, released Tuesday by the consulting firm of Crowe Horwath LLP, is suggesting that improvements be made to the DuPage County Election Commission’s credit card, ethics and procurement policies to safeguard the county’s financial assets. For example, the consultants are recommending the commission review all of its existing contracts to make sure they were properly awarded.

Contracts scrutinized
Consultants reviewed 13 DuPage County Election Commission contracts and found that commission didn’t follow its own guidelines in these 12:
Liberty Systems, 3-year deal for equipment maintenance; approved July 2008
Fidlar Election Co., $4.05 million for election equipment; approved October 2003
Roger Marquardt, $36,000 for a year of lobbying; approved March 2011
Liberty Systems, $4.9 million for four years of printing; approved June 2009
Liberty Systems, $268,000 for four years of professional services; approved June 2009
Bond Dickson, for a year of legal services; approved February 2011
Diehl Road Aurora LLC, $660,385 for three years of warehouse rental; approved May 2011
GateHouse Media, for four years of tabloid insertions; approved November 2011
Robis Elections Inc., for five years of software license renewal; approved March 2009
Stratus Tech, $10,824 for database upgrade; approved January 2011
SOE Software Corp., for five years of software license and maintenance; approved August 2006
WM Meyers Movers Inc., for five years of election equipment; approved January 2012
Cronin on Tuesday said the report is an “unprecedented opportunity” for the taxpayers and voters to look into the day-to-day operation and policies of the commission. The findings are “alarming,” he said.
“In light of these findings and the disturbing policies and practices that continue at the election commission, I am prepared to take swift action,” Cronin said, but he did not elaborate.
While the election commission was formed in 1974 as an independent board, the county board chairman appoints members of the three-person panel. State law requires both political parties be represented, but Republicans hold two of the three seats.
“Due to the very nature of its purpose, the election commission should represent the highest standards of transparency and accessibility,” Cronin said.
Commission officials are responding by saying the report wasn’t carefully fact-checked and that it contains “numerous glaring misstatements of fact and misunderstandings of state law.”
But the written statement signed by all three commissioners — J.P. “Rick” Carney, Jeanne McNamara and Charlotte Mushow — didn’t indicate what parts of the report they’re challenging.
“We will respond to this report in greater detail in coming weeks and will assess any procedural operations that need tightening and continue to work with county government where possible to serve taxpayers better,” the statement reads.
The commission organizes, executes and documents all the local, state and federal elections within DuPage.
Carney said the commission has “a 100 percent success rate conducting elections” and has saved property taxpayers at least $5 million since 2006 by consolidating voting locations.
But Cronin said, “We’re not talking about the accuracy of election results; we’re talking about internal operations.”
Last year, Cronin called for a comprehensive assessment of two dozen county agencies after financial scandals involving the DuPage Housing Authority and the DuPage Water Commission. All the boards and commissions examined have individuals who are nominated by the county board chairman.
After seeing the report about the election commission, county board member John Curran said it’s important the county “quickly” address the issues raised by the consultants.
Curran said he was “most troubled” by the consultants pointing out that the commission didn’t adhere to its own rules while awarding 12 out of 13 contracts.
The consultants found instances of “incomplete file documentation, lack of competitive bidding, failure to disclose subcontractors, and lack of disclosure in the contract of the nature and of the goods or services to be provided.”
“They don’t have a strong policy like us,” Curran said. “So they’re free to kind of ad-lib and do as they please in these situations.”
Cronin criticized the fact that credit cards have been assigned to the commission’s executive director and assistant executive director.
“I don’t think there’s any place for credit cards in government offices,” Cronin said. “We don’t have them here. I don’t believe in it. I think it’s wrong. It just opens up the opportunity for problems.”
The consultants from Crowe Horwath recommended that the commission improve its credit card policy. They added that the commission’s ethics policy must be brought in line with the county’s.
Cronin said he wants to work with the election commission to ensure the agency gets the trust and confidence of voters and taxpayers.
“Under our administration, this will be an agency above and beyond reproach,” Cronin said. “But we’re a long way from that point right now.”

Prevailing Wage

The Mayors and Managers Legislative Plan would like to limit the Prevailing Wage Act. What that means is they don’t want to have to pay plumbers, electricians, carpenters or others a living wage because there is no money in the budget but  they are giving top administrators big salary increases and bonuses. Pay attention people.  

The council voted last night to issue $35 million in bonds for projects, including water mains.

The Village ouncil voted Tuesday night to raise Village Manager Dave Fieldman’s salary in addition to voting in favor of issuing $35 million in bonds for various village projects.
In a 5–2 vote, with Commissioners Bob Barnett and William Waldack opposing it, the council agreed to increase Fieldman’s salary from $140,000 to $160,000, give him a $5,000 bonus and increase his severance package by three months.
Barnett said he believed the Village Manager had done a fantastic job and his nay vote was a criticism of the method of rewarding the Village Manager and not a criticism of Fieldman.
Waldack did not explain his nay vote.
Mayor Martin Tully said Fieldman does not receive enough thanks for the work he does, adding that Fieldman had accomplished “outstanding efforts and achievements” on behalf of the village.
Commissioner Marilyn Schnell said that of the five or six village managers she has worked with, Fieldman ranks among the top.
“From my perspective, one of the things I wanted to see was the reputation of the village go up several levels…and I think Dave has done that,” she said.
The council also voted last night to issue bonds for $35 million for street system and water system improvements. Approximately $25 million will be for road construction projects and $10 million will be designated for water system projects, including water main replacement.
“Our obligation is to maintain our infrastructure and that’s what we’re setting out to do,” Tully said. “I’m in full support of this.”
Barnett clarified this is much needed debt and the payments will be made via existing revenue streams—the village will not need to find new ways to generate revenues for the debt repayment. 
The ordinance passed 6–1, with Waldack voicing the only opposition.
During the first read portion of the meeting, Downers Grove Planning Manager Jeff O’Brien discussed a potential boundary agreement with Lisle.
As it now stands, Walnut Avenue, running from Ogden Avenue to Warren Avenue, is the dividing line between the two towns. It is not stated in the existing agreement which town maintains the street.
If the council passes this resolution, Downers Grove will be responsible for maintaining Walnut Avenue and the new boundary between the villages would be along the west side of the street.
In addition, Downers Grove would relinquish control of I-355 between the railroad tracks and Maple Avenue.
Lastly, the council will soon vote to convert a number of downtown parking spaces to 15-minute parking spots, a recommendation from the recent Downtown Parking Study. The study found that short-term parking spaces allow for a high turnover of customers, which would help multiple businesses in the area.

Related Topics: Dave FieldmanWatermain, and bonds

Hinsdale Doings Endorsement from 2006 Campaign

Endorsement – Hinsdale Doings – 2006 Campaign

“The race for the DuPage County Board’s District 2 seat presents a difficult choice for voters….  But only one person can be elected come November, and  therefore we endorse Chaplin.  She adds a refreshingly different kind of voice to the mix.  Her efforts in uncovering a water quality issue in her neighborhood show initiative and determination that could translate well into a role as a responsive elected official.
Chaplin, who has gained experience in government serving on the DuPage Water Commission, wants to develop and maintain affordable housing in the area, as well as attract and keep businesses.  We agree with these measures.  We particularly support her plan to reduce the County Board from 18 to 12 members and to eliminate benefits and reduce salaries [for] the part-time positions.
We think that with two Republican attorneys currently holding the other seats in district 2, residents could be well-served by having a representative with new ideas.  Chaplin a stay at home mom, would be effective in providing a public voice for the DuPage County everyman.”

DuPage United Delegate Assembly 10-07-10

It’s no secret Illinois is in financial trouble, and it’s no wonder either! Many of our government units proceed unchecked and unaccountable, resisting reform and guarding their turf. Our best local example is the DuPage Water Commission. 
In early 2007 it was in the enviable position of having excess reserves. At that time, DuPage United very publicly encouraged the Commission to (1) earmark part of those reserves to make the remaining bond payments, (2) ease water rates back to a sustainable level, and (3) give up the quarter cent sales tax collected on our purchases in DuPage County. This tax generated over $30 million a year and had created a big piggy bank at a time it could have done more good in the pockets of taxpayers or funding pressing needs of the community. 
Yet when DuPage United asked the Water Commissioners to take these three steps, their response was to guard what they saw as their money. First they diverted $40 million to member towns with no strings attached. Legal? Probably only in Illinois! Then they lowered the water rate paid by the towns, even though the rate was already below cost. These actions were taken to justify keeping their sales tax. 
While they were scrambling to spend down reserves, they lost track of finances. Raiding the piggy bank, selling water at a loss, funding new construction projects and not keeping track of their bank balances inadvertently used up all of the reserves and then some…in just over two years! By last fall the Commission needed to borrow $70 million. 
During the years of fiscal mismanagement, there was a consistent voice calling for restraint. Commissioner Liz Chaplin, whose appointment ended last June, was ignored and even ridiculed by other Commissioners, but outside investigators brought in to find out where all the money went lauded her efforts. Tonight we want to thank Liz Chaplin for 8 years of dedicated service as a Water Commissioner — 
Our ongoing analysis of the Commission led us to support Senate Bill 580 last spring—a bill intended to fold the Water Commission into county government, something recommended by the Civic Federation in 2006. Some mayors spent a lot of taxpayer money fighting that bill, and in the end, the only real changes that passed call for the current Commissioners to resign at the end of this year and for the sales tax to sunset in 2016. Commissioners can, of course, be reappointed, and some are already looking for ways to keep the sales tax. 

Can Suburban Mayors Serve On County Boards

BY ANDREW SCHROEDTER April 8, 2012 11:26PM

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Commissioner Peter N. Silvestri. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 9, 2012 9:56AM
Should a suburban mayor be allowed to have a second job as a county board member?
That’s a question at the center of a political debate in DuPage County where Elmhurst Mayor Pete DiCianni and Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso say they plan to continue running their respective communities if elected to the DuPage County Board in the general election in November.
And it’s a question now being raised in Cook County, because Peter Silvestri and Jeffrey Tobolski are county commissioners who also serve as elected leaders in their municipalities.
Silvestri has served as Elmwood Park’s village president and a Cook County commissioner for nearly two decades. During that span, he says no one has challenged the legality of his holding dual offices.
But observers say if DiCianni and Grasso win in November and are pressured to step down as mayors — a possibility ever since DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin crafted a legal opinion that found such dual roles are “incompatible” — it could make it easier for someone to come after Silvestri or Tobolski, the mayor of McCook since 2007 and a Cook County commissioner since 2010.
“I think [they] would have reason to be nervous,” says Jack Siegel, a veteran municipal attorney not involved in the matter.
Silvestri says he’s not concerned but acknowledges he heard about the debate in DuPage and brought it up to state Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park.).
That led Harmon to introduce a bill on Feb. 7 that would make it legal across the state to serve as a mayor and county commissioner, even if the agencies have basic contractual agreements such as those involving 911 dispatching or sewer services. Under the state’s Public Officer Prohibited Activities Act, a county commissioner isn’t supposed to serve on a community’s governing board if the county government and the community have a contractual relationship.
Cook County has had no contractual relationship with Elmwood Park or McCook over the past five years, a county spokeswoman says. In recent years, DuPage County has had at least seven legal agreements with Elmhurst and Burr Ridge, including intergovernmental agreements that address road and storm water management projects, records show.
Harmon’s bill has been making its way through the Senate, but Harmon now says he’s backing off because he doesn’t want to affect a political race.
This story was written and reported by BGA investigator Andrew Schroedter. He can be reached at aschroedter@bettergov.org or (312) 821-9035.