Kane County Board members will attempt to impose a more strict code of ethics upon themselves next week. It's a task that's been nearly two years in the making and a proposition that deadlocked lawmakers this past December. The outcome may be different next Tuesday if only because none of the 26 county board members seem 100 percent happy with what they'll vote on.
Indeed, three possible final amendments will get a vote before the underlying ethics bill sees its fate determined.
The most controversial amendment comes from county board member Jim Mitchell. He's dropped his vision of having every county board member verbally state any campaign contributions received from interested parties prior to contract votes. Instead, he wants the Kane County State's Attorney's Office to review economic interest statements and campaign finance disclosure forms for county board members and the board chairman whenever a request to do so is made by virtually anyone, including the public.
As that review may add more work to the Kane County State's Attorney's duties, the cost of the staff and time has been a point of attack on the amendment. Opponents have also cited the availability of campaign finance information that's already posted on the Internet for public review.
Mitchell said opposition to the amendment is almost comical in his eyes.
"If this issue wasn't so serious I would almost find it funny," Mitchell said. "On one hand you people are saying it's all out there on the Internet, and it's easy to find. On the other you're saying this is a hell of a lot of work for the state's attorney to find this stuff out. So something isn't right here."
An amendment by county board member Maggie Auger attempts to address the funding issue with the state's attorney's office. She proposes a $5,000 administrative enforcement fee as part of the repercussions for any person who violates the new ethics code.
But Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said such a high fee would likely be challenged in court. The amendment would impose the fine for even the most minor of violations of the ethics code. A court may see $5,000 as excessive in those instances, McMahon said.
The final amendment has received almost no discussion, although the topic it addresses has been a hot button in the political world. County board member Bonnie Kunkel wants civil unions to be part of any definition of spouse, family or immediate family covered in the ethics ordinance.