Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay Wednesday promised to "light a fire under" the now stagnant debate about what constitutes ethical conduct for board members.
Changes to create a more stringent and proactive ethics ordinance for the county were once a frequent topic of debate for more than a year in various board committees. But that debate grew silent when the topic reached the county board's executive committee at the beginning of this year. McConnaughay said the discussion will begin as soon as the Kane County state's attorney's office provides a legal opinion on some lingering questions about possible changes to the ethics ordinance. Board members have asked about everything from limiting campaign contributions to requiring board members to verbally state any donations they've received before taking votes on any contracts.
"Many of those questions, my feeling was, weren't really answered," McConnaughay said. "We compiled all the questions that have been asked by all of the county board members, sent that to the state's attorney's office, and I've asked them to answer all those questions comprehensively."
McConnaughay made that formal request of Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon's office nearly three months ago. Assistant State's Attorney Joe Cullen, on Wednesday, promised an answer to that request would be coming very soon.
The longer the answers take, the closer the lame duck county board members get to a November general election that already promises to see vast turnover on the board. McConnaughay said the current board started the debate on the ethics ordinance changes and should continue to try to reach an agreement on those changes before a regime change. That regime change will see McConnaughay depart since she's vying for a state Senate seat. The idea that the lame duck board should wait for the new class of board members, and their ideas of ethics changes, isn't appealing to McConnaughay.
"If you follow that kind of logic, why don't we just all shut down now and everyone can stop taking a paycheck here?" McConnaughay said. "You think they're going to stop taking their paychecks? I doubt it. You still have a unit of government to run."
Until another vote on the ethics ordinance emerges, board members should be mindful that a current version of the ethics law remains in place, McConnaughay said. However, some board members have commented that it doesn't seem like all the provisions of the current ethics ordinance are being followed or implemented as debate about changes to the law has created a limbo effect. McConnaughay indicated she was puzzled by how that limbo effect came into being.
"It wasn't in a state of limbo until the former state's attorney (John Barsanti, who is now a judge), on his way out the door, said, 'Oh, by the way, I've decided that I don't think some of what you passed is legal.' (That happened) even though he sat on the committee. He was part of the evaluation process of the ethics ordinance. That's where the confusion on this whole thing started."
Ethics: County board will undergo vast turnover after election