New ethics policy for DuPage Election Commission
By Hank Beckman For The Sun June 14, 2012 10:30PM
Updated: July 16, 2012 6:36AM
The DuPage County Election Commission adopted a new ethics policy Thursday night that mimics the County Board’s ethics ordinance.
Commissioners unanimously approved expanding the number of ethics commissioners from three to five and agreed with a suggestion to offer DuPage County Investigator General Neal Thompson the chance to fill the same position for the Commission’s Ethics Committee.
“It’s exactly like the County’s (ethics ordinance),” Executive Director Robert Saar said of the new policy.
One change is adjusting the “revolving door” policy, designed to prohibit employees from leaving County employment only to gain work with a company expecting to do business with the County.
The new policy will mirror the DuPage County policy, which essentially involves a three-step process.
First, notice has to be made to the Election Commission that a Commissioner or employee is a prospective employee of such a firm.
Next, the Ethics Commission is required to investigate the situation to determine if a problem of conflict of interests exists.
Third, it will come back before the Commission for approval.
The process for filing an ethics complaint also will be changed. Currently, the complaint must be filed with Saar. But to avoid any appearance of intimidation, future complaints will go directly to the office of the Commission’s Investigator General
Another issue is the disclosure of the financial situation of people being subcontracted with for business with the Commission.
Saar indicated that the new procurement procedure, to be voted on at the Commission’s June 29 meeting, would address concerns about subcontractors.
Some in attendance had issues with the way the Commission had chosen its Ethics Commissioners in the past.
Glen Ellyn resident Paul Fessenbecker read from the minutes of several past meetings and said he still didn’t know how they chose the sitting ethics commissioners when the previous ethics policy was adopted.
Legal Council Patrick Bond said a single former commissioner made up a subcommittee that recommended the Ethics Commissioners to the Electoral Commission.
“We wanted to make sure it was reflective of the composition of the County Board,” Bond said in reference to the approximate balance between Democrats and Republicans serving as County Board Members.
Melissa Urda of the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project questioned the DuPage County practice of not counting ballots cast for verification against applications before sealing the records, which she noted was in violation of state statute.
Asked by Commissioner Cathy Terril if this was common practice, Urda said she could only speak for the polling places where she had served as an election judge.
Saar said that to count them right after the polls closed would involve turning the voting machine back to zero and mean every vote would have to be counted late at night.
He also stressed that a bipartisan team of observers would count them later.
Also scheduled for the June 29 meeting was guidance from staff on how new Ethics Commissioners would be chosen.