As a former state lawmaker, DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin says he understands the role that lobbyists play in the democratic process.
On Tuesday night, Cronin publicly defended the county's use of lobbying firms at the state and federal levels.
"It is critical, critical that the county maintain a very strong presence in both Washington D.C. and Springfield," Cronin said.
The county board then voted 15-1 to spend $300,000 to keep three lobbying firms.
Two of the firms -- All-Circo, Inc. and V.A. Persico Consulting -- will work with state lawmakers on the county's behalf. The third firm, BGR Government Affairs LLC in Washington, D.C., will focus on federal initiatives.
DuPage also will contribute $24,000 to help pay McGuire Woods Consulting, which represents the DuPage Health Department at the state level. That expenditure didn't require a county board vote because it's less than $25,000.
As for the three other one-year contracts, Dirk Enger was the only county board member to oppose them.
"My constituents have made it very clear that they are not in favor of lobbyists," Enger said. "One of the problems in politics -- on both sides of the aisle -- is supporting lobbyists, and it needs to come to an end."
Board members who supported hiring the firms said DuPage's team of lobbyists helped secure millions of dollars in state and federal funding for the county over the past year.
Cronin said the lobbyists are needed to communicate DuPage's priorities and concerns directly to lawmakers.
"DuPage County has a well-respected and hardworking delegation of elected officials in both Springfield and Washington D.C.," he said. "However, these legislators are confronted with hundreds, in some cases thousands, of different issues.
"They cannot always know the position of DuPage County on important pieces of legislation, particularly as legislation evolves throughout the process," Cronin added. "Therefore, direct communication ... is essential to our success."
As part of its contract, BGR Government Affairs will be paid $120,000. However, the DuPage Airport Authority is expected to reimburse the county $40,000, officials said.