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updated: 8/8/2013 8:14 AM

Lauzen catches heat for illegal RTA appointment

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  • Nabi Fakroddin

      Nabi Fakroddin

 
 

A day after learning the first major appointment of his administration violated state law, Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen accepted the resignation of RTA board member Nabi Fakroddin and apologized for the error.

But not all Kane County Board members were ready to let Lauzen off the hook.

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RTA officials only recently informed Gov. Pat Quinn of Fakroddin's dual service on the RTA board and as a member of the Illinois Human Rights Commission. State law says RTA board members can't serve on any other appointed or elected body in the state except a school board.

Fakroddin served in both roles for about three months before the conflict with state law was discovered. News broke of Fakroddin's conflict the same day Illinois Human Rights Commission officials responded to a Daily Herald Freedom of Information request seeking any communication between the commission and Fakroddin regarding an intent to resign following acceptance of the RTA appointment.

No such communication occurred through the end of July.

Lauzen said Wednesday it was only in the past week that RTA officials informed Fakroddin his board service may be illegal.

"As of yesterday, Nabi's report about the position of the attorney of the RTA was still that it was an ambiguous question," Lauzen said in an interview. "So it's not a slam dunk. But as soon as it was brought to my attention, I did go back and read the statute. I think that it is clear enough."

Lauzen's comments came after county board member Cristina Castro took him to task at a public meeting for not spotting the legal violation earlier.

Castro did specifically ask during the vote on Fakroddin's appointment if his service on the Illinois Human Rights Commission posed any kind of problem. At the time, Lauzen said it was not a problem. Moreover, he expected Fakroddin to finish the remaining 18 months on his appointment to the commission and then turn his full attention to the RTA board.

"I did ask the question was it a problem," Castro reminded Lauzen. "It turns out it is a problem. It is against the law."

To avoid a repeat problem, Castro requested that all future appointments to major boards get vetted through Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon's office.

Patrick Kinnally, McMahon's special appointee to the county board, said the official position of McMahon's office is such a review of applicants would be out of bounds and unnecessary. Kinnally said the state's attorney's position is there is nothing ethically wrong with Fakroddin's dual service.

"It's got nothing to do with conflict of interest," Kinnally said. "If the vetting was to be done, it was to be done by the RTA board and not the local officials with respect to whether or not they had these provisions. The RTA board never brought it up. Mr. Fakroddin had no conflict of interest."

Lauzen said he's "very disappointed" in losing Fakroddin as the county's RTA representative, but he had no knowledge of the illegality of the appointment when he made it.

"I apologize to you for not knowing every piece of 17 volumes of statute," Lauzen told the county board's Executive Committee. "And I do apologize to any of you who may have been offended that somehow any part of the process that I used to bring this to you was improper."

That said, Lauzen indicated he would use a very similar process to find Fakroddin's replacement. He did not set a timetable for accepting and reviewing applications.

The county's representative to the Metra board is also an open seat after the recent resignation of Mike McCoy.

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