DuPage Housing Authority ousts another director

Could this be a result of not being properly vetted.  
Article updated: 8/29/2012 3:02 PM
DuPage Housing Authority ousts another director
Just eight months after being brought in to help clean up the embattled DuPage Housing Authority, David Hoicka has been fired from his job as executive director.
Housing authority board Chairman Thomas Good announced the change in leadership on Wednesday morning. He said Hoicka was let go a day earlier “without cause” by the board.
“It’s disappointing that a change in direction was necessary,” said Good, adding that the board chose to exercise the “no-cause” termination provision in Hoicka’s contract.
In a written statement, the housing board said: “The board of commissioners appreciates the work Mr. Hoicka accomplished with the housing authority and the strides that were made during his management of the agency.”
Hoicka’s termination came about two weeks after board members received an unsigned letter that was highly critical of Hoicka’s management style. The sender of the letter claimed that it was written by housing authority staff members.
Good said the letter wasn’t a factor in the board’s decision. “The board does not react to anonymous letters,” he said.
Attempts to contact Hoicka on Wednesday were unsuccessful. No one answered the door at his Wheaton home.
Hoicka, who had served in senior management for housing agencies in Texas, Louisiana, and Hawaii, was hired in January as part of ongoing efforts to overhaul the Wheaton-based agency that once mismanaged more than $10 million in federal funding.
He replaced John Day, who was forced to resign last year after the U.S. Office of Inspector General released two audits critical of the agency. A third audit concluded the agency improperly spent more than $5.8 million in federal money and failed to adequately document another $4.7 million.
Hoicka took the reins of the agency after the board conducted a nationwide search for an executive director. At the time he was hired, officials said Hoicka’s background made him an ideal choice.
In addition to publishing three handbooks on HUD housing programs, Hoicka served as an adviser for public housing groups in Southeast Asia and Bahrain in the Persian Gulf.
“We wouldn’t have hired him if we didn’t have faith in him,” Good said.
Hoicka will get three months of severance pay and health insurance benefits. His annual salary was $125,000 a year.
Housing authority officials have been working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to clear up the administrative issues that resulted in the audit findings.
DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin replaced every member of the housing board after the release of the third audit. The revamped housing board has since implemented a variety of reforms, including the adoption of a new ethics ordinance, travel policy and purchasing policy.
Good said he made federal housing officials aware of the change in leadership.
“I have assured them there will be no disruption in the efforts we are working on,” he said.
The housing board is planning to hire a firm to conduct a nationwide search for Hoicka’s replacement. Good said officials want the process “to go more quickly” than the previous search.
“We’re doing well with HUD, and we don’t want it to take six months or longer to come up with a new executive director,” Good said.
In the meantime, a current housing authority employee, Deb Darzinskis, will serve as interim executive director. She was hired in June to be a project administration specialist after spending 14 years with Catholic Charities Diocese of Joliet.
“She’s highly thought of,” Good said of Darzinskis. “She has a wealth of experience from the charitable work.”

DuPage gives nod to lobbying contracts

DuPage gives nod to lobbying contracts
By Susan Frick carlman scarlman@stmedianetwork.com August 29, 2012 3:10PM

Updated: August 29, 2012 3:10PM 
Four consulting firms will share $324,000 in fees over the coming year after being hired by the DuPage County Board to lobby lawmakers on its behalf. The expense is the same amount the county spent for the purpose a year ago
Not everyone supported the new contracts, one of which will be paid in part with $40,000 kicked in by the DuPage Airport Authority.
Dirk Enger of Winfield, who represents District 6 on the board, acknowledged that the outlay is smaller than the expense the county has incurred for lobbying services in the past. The fees came to $390,000 in 2010. Last year’s total reflected a redistribution of the amounts paid to state and federal lobbyists after DuPage officials decided to spend more on issues in Illinois. They allocated $240,000 in 2010 for work in Washington, D.C., then cut that sum in half last year.
Enger said his constituents don’t support the expenditure of tax funds on lobbying. He said he has worked for nonprofits that don’t have lobbying budgets, such as veterans’ and housing organizations, and was “pushed out in the hallway” many times by powerbrokers.
“I still have a faith that we can rely on our elected officials to represent us,” Enger said. “I cannot support a system that I feel has tarnished democracy in America.”
Residents who spoke at Tuesday evening’s County Board meeting shared Enger’s opposition to the contracts, but Chairman Dan Cronin expressed confidence that the expense is worthwhile.

“It is critical, critical that the county maintain a strong presence both in Springfield and down in Washington, D.C.,” said Cronin, who spent almost two decades in the state House before taking the county’s top elected job in 2010.
He noted that notices of committee meetings sometimes aren’t posted until an hour before they begin, and stressed the value of “real-time” conveyance of county interests, saying the county has good working relationships with all of the lobbyists.
“They’re colleagues of ours,” Cronin said. “We have faith, trust and confidence in all of them.”
Although Illinois State Board of Elections records show some of the lobbying firms have made modest campaign contributions to current DuPage office holders, the board members who supported the accords weren’t concerned about ethical breaches.
JR McBride, who recently became chairman of the board’s legislative committee, voted against two of the four contracts in 2010. This time, he sees the agreements as needed and voted for all of them.
“I’ve always believed I was the best one-on-one basketball player out there,” McBride said. “But it’s a five-on-five game.”

DuPage defends use of lobbying firms

DuPage defends use of lobbying firms
As a former state lawmaker, DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin says he understands the role that lobbyists play in the democratic process.
On Tuesday night, Cronin publicly defended the county’s use of lobbying firms at the state and federal levels.
“It is critical, critical that the county maintain a very strong presence in both Washington D.C. and Springfield,” Cronin said.
The county board then voted 15-1 to spend $300,000 to keep three lobbying firms.
Two of the firms — All-Circo, Inc. and V.A. Persico Consulting — will work with state lawmakers on the county’s behalf. The third firm, BGR Government Affairs LLC in Washington, D.C., will focus on federal initiatives.
DuPage also will contribute $24,000 to help pay McGuire Woods Consulting, which represents the DuPage Health Department at the state level. That expenditure didn’t require a county board vote because it’s less than $25,000.
As for the three other one-year contracts, Dirk Enger was the only county board member to oppose them.
“My constituents have made it very clear that they are not in favor of lobbyists,” Enger said. “One of the problems in politics — on both sides of the aisle — is supporting lobbyists, and it needs to come to an end.”
Board members who supported hiring the firms said DuPage’s team of lobbyists helped secure millions of dollars in state and federal funding for the county over the past year.
Cronin said the lobbyists are needed to communicate DuPage’s priorities and concerns directly to lawmakers.
“DuPage County has a well-respected and hardworking delegation of elected officials in both Springfield and Washington D.C.,” he said. “However, these legislators are confronted with hundreds, in some cases thousands, of different issues.
“They cannot always know the position of DuPage County on important pieces of legislation, particularly as legislation evolves throughout the process,” Cronin added. “Therefore, direct communication … is essential to our success.”
As part of its contract, BGR Government Affairs will be paid $120,000. However, the DuPage Airport Authority is expected to reimburse the county $40,000, officials said.

DuPage County Board Members Vote For Lobbyists To Do Their Job

The same lobbyists that donated to several DuPage County Board members, including Pat O’Shea, Dan Cronin , Robert Larsen and Jim Zay  received one year contracts with DuPage County.  This is not the first time DuPage County Board members have come under fire for rewarding contracts to those that donate to their campaigns.  In January of 2011 nine of the 18 DuPage County Board members handed a no bid contract to Schirott, Luetkehans & Garner P.C. to help redraw the county’s electoral map.

Last night the recipients of the contracts that donated to county board members were V.A. Perisco Consulting Inc. who received a $60,000.00 contract for one year. V.A. Perisco has donated to the campaigns of Pat O’Shea, Dan Cronin, Robert Larsen and Jim Zay. The concern with All Circo is that  John Kelly, Jr. is the owner and his wife Julie is an unpaid volunteer for Dan Cronin.

Besides the fact that some of these contracts have the appearance of impropriety is there true need for these lobbyists.  DuPage County Board member Dirk Enger said it best last night, I don’t have the exact wording but his point was, who is better than the elected official at advocating on behalf of the citizens.

I agree with Dirk Enger.  It should be the job of the DuPage County Board member to lobby on behalf of those that elected him.  We heard last night from Don Puchalski who disagreed with Mr. Enger.  He said something to the effect that they are powerless,  we don’t have the connections to get the job done and we heard more of the same from JR McBride.

Mr. Puchalski and Mr. McBride what are we paying you for?

DuPage Likely to Keep Lobbying Firms

Two of these firms donated to DuPage County Board members within the last 12 months. DuPage County citizens deserve better.

posted: 8/22/2012 4:42 PM
DuPage likely to keep lobbying firms
After voicing satisfaction about what four lobbying firms accomplished this year for DuPage County, a county board committee is calling for the same strategy to be used next year.
On Tuesday, the full county board is expected to vote on the recommendation to keep the same team of lobbyists.
If the one-year contracts totaling $324,000 are approved, three of the firms would continue to work with state lawmakers on the county’s behalf, while the fourth would remain focused on federal initiatives.
“This is by far our best group of lobbyists so far,” said JR McBride, chairman of the county board’s legislative and government affairs committee. He specifically praised the ongoing lobbying efforts to secure federal funding for the extension of the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway.
As part of its proposed contract, Washington, D.C.-based BGR Government Affairs LLC would be paid $120,000 from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31, 2013 to promote the county’s interests at the federal level. The DuPage Airport Authority is expected to reimburse the county $40,000, officials said.
Three other lobbyists — All-Circo Inc., McGuire Woods Consulting and V.A. Persico Consulting Inc. — would represent DuPage’s interests in Springfield.
All-Circo would be paid a $120,000 from Sept. 15 to Sept. 14, 2013. The Chicago-based firm is owned by John J. Kelly, Jr., the husband of one of county board Chairman Dan Cronin’s policy consultants. Julie Kelly is an unpaid volunteer, according to Cronin.
McGuire Woods Consulting would get $24,000 as part of its proposed contract with the county. The firm has represented the DuPage Health Department since 2008.
DuPage’s lead state lobbyist would continue to be V.A. Persico Consulting Inc., which would be paid $60,000 from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31, 2013. Vince Persico, a former state legislator from Glen Ellyn, has represented DuPage since 2003.
Despite four legislative committee members supporting the four contracts, panel member Dirk Enger this week opposed keeping all the lobbying firms.
“How effective are we going to be when (state lawmakers) can’t even sit down and address the pension issue?” said Enger, adding that there’s also gridlock at the federal level. “I just don’t see where we could be very effective at this time.”
County board member Don Puchalski acknowledged that he has been critical in the past of using lobbyists. Still, he said the county’s lobbyists “have done a great job.”
“These guys, especially our Springfield lobbyists, are able to get results,” Puchalski said. “They do know how to work both sides of the aisle.”
Vendor ethics disclosure statements show that two of the firms contributed to the campaigns of county board members within the last 12 months.
McGuire Woods Consulting in January donated $1,000 to county board member Pat O’Shea, who is vying for the 18th Judicial Circuit judge position against Democrat and Bolingbrook attorney Alice Wilson. Between September 2011 and February, Persico donated $645 to Cronin, $150 to O’Shea, $75 to board member Robert Larsen and $50 to board member Jim Zay, records show.

Election Commission To Follow DuPage Ethics

A step in the right direction.  Hopefully the policy will be enforced.
Pact puts election panel under DuPage ethics rules
By Susan Frick Carlman scarlman@stmedianetwork.com August 17, 20122 2:14PM
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

A Steady Rain by Kevin O’Donnell

An excellent piece on DuPage County politics
Member of the American Theater Critics Association; New York Times Company Foundation-sponsored critic fellow
A Steady Rain
Posted: 08/16/2012 6:41 pm
Playwright Keith Huff’s A Steady Rain is simply among the best police dramas you will ever see on a stage. The current production in Chicago of the noir good cop/bad cop play, is a reprise of the 2007 production with the orginal actors Randy Steinmeyer and Peter De Faria. The universal resonance of the themes of the personal cost of police work, the color grey of crime, and the bad ending of the scapegoating of a crime, has led to productions in the U.S. and all over the world. The show continues to find an audience with upcoming productions scheduled for Brazil, Prague, Venezuela, Tokyo, Columbia, Madrid and London.
The importance of plays like A Steady Rain or stories in any form with universal themes, is that the stories help us to figure things out, which is just what officials and residents of the western Chicago suburb of Winfield, Ilinois are currently trying to do. “We face difficult times in our country; we need to figure it out,” said Winfield resident Chris Jonsson at a recent Winfield town meeting packed with residents who came to hear the REM Consulting report on the potential savings if the village disbanded its police department.
One path to figuring it out is to make the connection between a crime scapegoated in Keith Huff’s fictional police drama and the initiative to disband the Winfield police department for cost savings and outsource the police function to the local sheriff (even though both the consultant and local Winfield residents agree, Winfield currently has a great police department). In a sense the proposal scapegoats the police department because it is not clear that Winfield’s fiscal problems are caused by the police department, but never-the-less, the police department is the only village department currently considered for outsourcing.
The initiative to outsource Winfield police came after years of municipal revenue constraint including a failed referendum that would have provided financing for repair of Winfield streets. Now looming are possible deep budget cuts from the Ryan budget to federal funds for education, roads and bridges and law enforcement. The selection of Congressman Paul Ryan to be the Republican nominee for vice president serves to make those concerns immediate.
The impact of the Ryan budget cuts on Congressman Ryan’s home town of Janesville, Wisconsin and on Winfield could be markedly unequal. After the closure of its GM plant, Janesville has leveraged its excellent highway system that connects with other midwest cities to re-invent itself as a distribution center. In contrast, Winfield streets show years of deferred maintenance partly due to decisions to prioritize the village’s police and fire department because of the presence of a large hospital in Winfield.
At the Winfield town meeting, DuPage County Board member Dirk Enger cautioned that the number one priority of a consultant is to provide facts accurately and that the actual cost comparison cannot be stated until the village issues a request for a proposal and the sheriff responds. Enger stated that the county board must approve any contract between the sheriff and Winfield and that the county board never received a copy of the consultant report. Enger disputed the consultant’s statement that the sheriff and Winfield would share red light camera fines. “I cannot imagine the county sharing revenue with the village,” Enger said. “I don’t think you can justify the figures you put on the board. You don’t have the facts,” Enger told the consultants.
Also calling for additional facts is life-long Winfield resident, Michelle Rosen who says that there needs to be a disclosure of the number of police calls made last year to the Cadence Hospital (formerly Central DuPage) and the cost of those calls. She and other Winfield residents ask why the non-profit hospital does not shoulder the municipal costs of police time at the hospital.
Observers outside of Winfield ask what will be the impact on property values and future development if Winfield outsources its police function to the local sheriff? No other community in Illinois has done so, making it dfficult to gauge the impact on property values. In addition, a recent Illinois Appeals Court decision affirmed the contractual rights of union police officers. The consultant report made no mention of the cost of police buyouts or where the money would come from.
Still another issue, one that does not lend itself to a quantified cost/benefit analysis, is the issue of the politicalization of DuPage County law enforcement. Scandals at the DuPage Housing Authority, DuPage Water Commission and DuPage County Election Commission have forced the resignations of their entire boards. Yet to date, there has not been a single indictment. Now a scandal at the DuPage County Forest Preserve has emerged regarding the steering of no bid contracts to insiders.
Activists who have seen what has happened at other DuPage agencies no longer file criminal complaints with law enforcement. Instead they make public statesments at Forest Preserve meetings and post the statements on YouTube.
After Winfield trustees and residents get their arms around these issues and around an agreed set of numbers from the potential savings from outsourcing, any contract with the sheriff would require the approval of the full DuPage County Board, a decision the consultant described as permanent because the cost of rebuilding a police department from scratch would be prohibitive.
Taking a few steps back suggests a simple interim test model solution for Winfield: contract with the DuPage County sheriff for police calls to Cadence Hospital. Send the bill to the hospital AND work with legislators to find some legislative relief from large non-profits who make enormous use of municipal infrastructure and services, but do not pay for those services.
In the mean time, Winfield police are out there 24/7 and A Steady Rain runs through September 2nd.
A Steady Rain
by Keth Huff
at Chicago Dramatists
1105 W. Chicago Ave
(312) 633-0630
Directed by Russ Tutterow
A Production of Chicago Dramatists and the Chicago Commercial Collective

Fundraiser for Kirchenberg and Leopoldo

Please consider supporting two great candidates for DuPage County Forest Preserve Don Kirchenberg and Steve Leopoldo
Join us for a Fundraiser for a Better DuPage Forest Preserve
Wednesday, August 22nd
Emmett’s Downers Grove
5200 Main St (at Grove St)
Don Kirchenberg is running for the District 2 Forest Preserve Commissioner position. He has dedicated himself to protecting the forest preserves, trees, wildlife and trails in DuPage County. Don, a lifelong area resident, is dedicated to better government and protecting DuPage’s natural treasures.
Don will work to:
Cut Part-Time Commissioner salaries by over 50% to $25,000. Stop single bid contracts. Not accept campaign donations from companies doing
business with the District. More about Don at: Protectourforestpreserves.org
Steve Leopoldo is running for the District 3 Forest Preserve Commissioner position. Steve will fight against waste and abuse in our local government and restore professional environmental management to the Forest Preserve.
Steve will fight to:
Prevent Fraud Restore ethics Refuse Public Pensions
More about Steve at: Stevefordupage.com
$32.00 Individuals
Host Level Contributions: $50 bronze, $100 silver, $200 gold.
Appetizers and soft drinks. Cash bar.
Please RSVP (stevefordupage@gmail.com or 630-481-6158) Walk-ins also welcome!
Can’t make it? Please show support at http://stevefordupage.com/Contribute.html
Paid for by Leopoldo for DuPage Forest Preserve. A copy of our report filed with the State Board of Elections is (or will be) available at the Board’s web site (www.elections.il.gov) or for purchase from the State Board of Elections, Springfield, IL. Printed in House.

Always Watching Out for the DuPage County Taxpayer

Always watching out for the DuPage County taxpayer.  Please see below excerpts from DuPage United, The Daily Herald and Chicago Tribune

DuPage United Delegate Assembly 10-07-10

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 —

DuPage Water Commission – Jake Griffin -Daily Herald 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.

Chicago Tribune Editorial

$$ down the drain
March 24, 2010

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.

Lawsuit Against DuPage County

Islamic Center files lawsuit against DuPage County
The group claims county officials violated religious land use and other laws
By Michelle Manchir, Chicago Tribune reporter
August 16, 2012
A lawsuit filed by an Islamist group against DuPage County alleges the county unfairly denied it use of a home in West Chicago for its prayer services.
The Islamic Center of Western Suburbs claims in a federal lawsuit filed Friday the county “placed several unreasonable burdens and limits” on its effort to operate out of a home at 28W774 Army Trail Road.
The Islamic Center of Western Suburbs filed a lawsuit alleging DuPage County unfairly denied it use of a home near West Chicago for its prayer services.
The Islamic Center of Western Suburbs claims in a federal lawsuit filed Aug. 3 the county “placed several unreasonable burdens and limits” on its effort to operate out of a home at 28W774 Army Trail Road, in the northwest portion of the county.
The group claims county officials violated religious land use and other laws when county board members in May denied with a 15-3 vote a zoning change the group needed to hold prayer services at the house, which it has owned since 2008.
Mark Daniel, an attorney for the group, said he is seeking to have the special use approved, prevent the county from interfering with its use and other compensatory damages.
The complaint claims that the county overstated parking needs and traffic impacts that the worship center would bring to the neighborhood and understated the lot’s area per occupant ratio.
As the county considered the special use earlier this year, many neighbors in the area of the site objected to the use, saying a prayer center is out of character with their neighborhood.
DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin did not return a phone message seeking comment. Johnna Kelly, a spokeswoman for the DuPage County board, said in an email “the county is not able to comment on pending legal matters.”
A court hearing is scheduled for Sept. 26 under U.S. District Court Judge Suzanne Conlon, Daniel said.