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updated: 2/28/2012 10:16 AM

DuPage forest preserve critics say new hires pose conflict of interest

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Critics of the DuPage Forest Preserve District are questioning the hiring of two employees who they say have political ties.

Finance Director Jack Hogan is a certified public accountant who has handled both Democratic and Republican campaign accounts, including for forest preserve President D. "Dewey" Pierotti, before joining the district in December, state records show.

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Information technology employee Troy Clampit is the owner of Genesis One Designs, a private, Villa Park-based firm that for roughly a decade has printed campaign materials and conducted website development for many candidates, including Pierotti, as well as similar campaign work for Republican commissioners Mike Formento, Marsha Murphy and Linda Painter.

His most recent forest preserve campaign work was for Formento, after Clampit was hired by the district.

Glen Ellyn resident Paula McGowen addressed the board of commissioners last week, saying she was upset with the "appearance of impropriety."

"I'm flabbergasted by the amount of political campaign work that is done by ... Clampit, and have to wonder how he's able to do his full-time job and all of his campaign work simultaneously," McGowen said. "What's with ... employees doing paid campaign work for Commissioner Mike Formento and President Dewey Perotti? These affiliations are unethical and likely illegal."

McGowen also heavily criticized the forest preserve in recent months for hiring an outside publicity firm under a no-bid contract.

In addition, Jean Kaczmarek, co-founder of Illinois Ballot Integrity Project's DuPage Chapter, said the commission isn't fairly searching for the most qualified candidates to fill important vacancies.

Kaczmarek has spoken out against the district in recent months at public meetings pertaining to the public relations firm. And the Ballot Integrity Project has been critical of the DuPage County Election Commission in past years.

"Why isn't the forest preserve seeking the most qualified job candidates in an open and fair process, particularly for positions requiring the highest responsibility and trust?" Kaczmarek asked. "This board isn't practicing due diligence."

But district officials say their hiring practices are ethical and they followed proper protocol when choosing both Clampit and Hogan.

"There's a lot of information out there that is totally incorrect, such as that we did not post Jack Hogan's job," said Laura Capizzano, forest preserve human resources director.

She said the finance director opening was posted on the district's website from Oct. 18 to Nov. 4, 2011, as well as internally and on the Illinois Government Finance Officers Association website. She said the district received several applications, including one internal hopeful.

But the hiring committee, made up of Capizzano, Director Brent Manning, and district treasurer and Commissioner Carl Schultz, felt Hogan was most qualified, she said.

Hogan was hired as interim director on Dec. 19 of last year and was named director this month, after longtime Finance Director Carole Hofmann retired. State records show Hogan's accounting work for Pierotti's campaign ended about a year before he was hired. In addition, Capizzano said the hiring committee "did not know any of that information" about Hogan's previous campaign work.

"That didn't come into play," she said. "We followed our normal process, checked his references and none of them were political. Whatever applicants do in their personal lives, whether they are a Republican or Democrat, we look at the job description and who would best fit the position. We don't stop anyone from supplementing their employment, as long as it isn't a conflict."

Clampit joined the district last March, initially as a seasonal employee working part-time hours. He was hired full-time shortly after Hogan joined the district. Capizzano said this was partially because the IT department had openings, due to the firing and resignation of two employees.

Those workers were ousted from the district in late fall, accused of using taxpayer dollars for their personal benefit by directing no-bid contracts to their private IT firm. The forest preserve conducted an internal investigation through an outside computer forensics company, and turned over the findings to the DuPage County State's Attorney's office.

"I had worked with the consultant looking at the needs of the IT department and where there were holes, and that's how Troy was able to be hired," Capizzano said. "The position was posted, he applied, and he was the best qualified. He had been here for some months and we were able to assess his job skills and strengths."

Genesis One Designs continued campaign work for non-forest preserve employees after Clampit's March hiring. But in November 2011, Genesis One was also paid $300 for web design services for Commissioner Mike Formento's campaign.

Capizzano said this is not a conflict, as Clampit has followed forest preserve policies and signed forms disclosing his outside work.

"We have policies against working on anything not related to forest preserve business during work hours and those are communicated to employees," she said. "If he was doing any type of work after district hours, that's really up to him."

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