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updated: 5/8/2012 5:50 PM

DuPage election agency cancels credit cards

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  • Robert Saar

      Robert Saar

 
 

A report critical of the DuPage Election Commission has prompted officials at the agency to pursue a broad range of changes, including canceling credit cards for top administrative staff.

Executive Director Robert Saar announced during Tuesday's election board meeting that the agency is going to close an account that provided credit cards to himself and the assistant executive director.

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"It's a little more difficult to live without them because there's some things that are easier to pay with a credit card," Saar said. "But we just think it's in the best interest of the commission to get rid of that. At that point, the election commission has no credit cards whatsoever."

Addressing the agency's credit card situation was among a list of recommendations made by the consulting firm of Crowe Horwath LLP.

That and other findings by the consultants in a report released two weeks ago resulted in DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin appointing two new commissioners to the election board. Cronin is going to name a third member to the three-member panel to replace the former chairman, who resigned at the urging of most county board members.

The previous members of the election panel issued a joint statement criticizing the Crowe report, saying the document contained "numerous glaring misstatements of fact and misunderstandings of state law."

But new board members say they are pleased that the agency is going to respond to the report by making improvements. In addition to canceling the credit cards, the agency is planning to revise its ethics and procurement policies.

"The commission is moving forward to adopt the recommendations in the Crowe report," Commissioner Cathy Ficker Terrill said. "We will have a plan of correction ... so we can continue to make additional changes."

That plan, which the election board is expected to review on May 29, will explore the possibility of doing more shared services with the county. Currently, the bipartisan commission has its own administrative responsibilities, including finance, human resources and information technology.

The commission staff also has drafted a revised ethics policy that's in line with the ethics policy that the county uses.

However, the co-chairwoman of the DuPage chapter of the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project told election board members that the agency's ethics policy should be more stringent.

Jean Kaczmarek said the election commission should prohibit former staff members from working for a vendor for at least two years after they leave the agency. She also suggested that the panel adopt "emergency" ethics items until the full policy is ready for final approval.

Kaczmarek also took aim at the fact that the consultants identified 12 instances where the commission didn't follow its own rules while awarding contracts.

She said the agency should stop making payments to any vendors that don't have viable contracts.

"Please consider reviewing the necessity of all of those vendors," Kaczmarek said. "If the necessity is there for their services, please open it up for bid."

Terrill said the new board will look at all of those concerns.

Meanwhile, Democratic Party leaders in DuPage already are calling on the commission to replace its attorney Patrick Bond and spokesman Dan Curry.

Paul Fessenbecker, who identified himself as a representative of the local Democratic Party, repeated that request to election commissioners on Tuesday.

"We all know what was in the Crowe Horwath report," Fessenbecker said. "I would hope that you go beyond that report and look at what's going on in the commission and fix it."

Fessenbecker said Democrats are opposed to the $3,000-a-month professional services contract for Curry's company Reverse Spin because Curry is a Republican strategist.

Curry said, "Considering our work for the election commission is nonpartisan, it would be inappropriate for our firm to comment on a partisan attempt to gain press coverage."

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