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posted: 2/28/2013 4:21 PM

DuPage provides ethics training to other agencies

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After encouraging 17 other government agencies to embrace DuPage County's recently revised ethics policy, county officials want to make sure those entities understand the rules.

So for the first time, representatives from county-appointed agencies this week participated in an annual ethics training seminar normally offered to county officials. About 65 people attended the roughly two-hour session.

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"We are holding ourselves to a high standard," county board Chairman Dan Cronin said, "and we're making sure that standard applies across the board."

The training session came about eight months after the county board agreed to allow other taxing bodies to use the DuPage County Ethics Commission and the county's investigator general to review complaints.

A review last year of two dozen independent agencies found many of them didn't have an ethics ordinance or had policies that didn't cover topics found in DuPage's policy, such as political contributions, contractor disclosure or conflict of interest. So Cronin unveiled a plan -- dubbed the DuPage ACT (Accountability, Consolidation and Transparency) Initiative -- that provided an opportunity for the 24 agencies to make structural and operational reforms.

One of the suggested reforms was that the agencies adopt the county's ethics ordinance. To date, 17 of them have complied.

"They are all joining our effort," said Cronin, adding that he expects all 24 agencies to eventually follow a common standard of conduct.

County officials said this week's ethics training seminar focused on prohibited gifts, conflicts of interest, whistle-blower protection, ethics in procurement practices and prohibited political activities. The seminar was presented by DuPage State's Attorney Robert Berlin and Paul Moreschi, the county's investigator general.

Cronin said regular ethics training is needed to help ensure the rules are followed.

"You can't expect people to behave ethically if you don't make it incumbent on them to learn what is right and what is wrong," he said.

Entities must enter into an intergovernmental agreement with DuPage in order to use the county's ethics commission and investigator general.

The investigator general receives and conducts the initial review of ethics complaints. He also acts as a prosecutor of a complaint if a hearing is conducted. DuPage's bipartisan ethics commission meets on an as-needed basis to review ethics complaints.

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