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posted: 9/5/2012 5:56 PM

Interim Kane ethics adviser hire moving along

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Plans to hire a former chief judge as an interim Kane County ethics adviser advanced Wednesday, as the county board's executive committee recommended it.

The county board will vote on the matter Tuesday.

Grant Wegner will be paid $175 an hour for his services, under the proposal. He would train employees and elected officials, and investigate ethics violation complaints. Wegner would also devise the training program.

Committee member Barb Wojnicki asked why Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay was recommending a Kendall County resident for the job, saying she would prefer a resident of Kane. McConnaughay said she did so simply to get an adviser on board quickly, to meet a state deadline. The clock started ticking when the board approved a new ethics ordinance in June. The former ethics adviser had quit, not wanting to retrain everyone. McConnaughay asked Chief Judge Robert Spence for a recommendation of a retired judge to fill the post, and he suggested Wegner, who used to preside over the 16th Judicial Circuit Court. The circuit covers Kendall, Kane and DeKalb counties.

Meanwhile, hiring a permanent ethics adviser hit a delay at the human services committee meeting Wednesday. The committee postponed sending out a request for qualifications -- essentially, a job posting -- for 30 days, and directed the county's human resources director to provide the committee with information about how much such advisers typically charge. Committee member Deborah Allan suggested comparing it to what the state's attorney's office pays when it contracts for outside attorneys.

The county board chairman would appoint the ethics adviser.

Assistant State's Attorney Joe Cullen also pointed out, again, that specifications in the request seem to conflict with Illinois law. Kane's ethics ordinance, he said, violates the Local Government Employees Political Rights Act, which says no local government can prohibit an employee from participating in political activities, including seeking elected office. He suggested eliminating the questionable requirement in the request.

But Executive Committee Chairman Phil Lewis said he would not allow a vote on that, preferring to let the county board deal with the consequences of the ordinance as is. The county board had adopted the new ethics ordinance in June despite repeated warnings, from State's Attorney Joe McMahon and former state's attorney John Barsanti, that the ordinance had illegal provisions that they could not enforce. Lewis, and the human services committee, agreed with Barsanti and McMahon, but were overruled by the rest of the board. Cullen said it was possible a person covered by the ordinance could sue the county.

"It (the possible illegality) is not a concern of the Kane County Board," Lewis said.

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