Appointees to scores of boards and commissions would be required to sign a "standards of conduct" pact under a plan announced Thursday by Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor.
"I appoint so many people to so many different things. There's no way we can oversee their day-to-day management," Lawlor said. "But what we can do is set a standard of conduct for the things we feel are important when they're serving the county."
The new rules, to be voted on Sept. 10 by the county board, would apply to nearly 300 appointees, most of them volunteers, serving on more than 70 units of government. Some are fairly obscure, such as drainage or mosquito abatement districts, and others are higher profile, such as Metra, Pace, the Lake County Board of Health and the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The standards would cover five areas: accountability; fiscal responsibility; transparency; efficiency; and, ethics. Lawlor said he would request the resignations of those who don't agree to follow the standards.
"All of these districts are a little bit different," he said. "We're trying to create some standards everybody can live with."
He said there was no single example of a problem, but he decided to take the action in light of questions regarding various appointed boards, such as Metra and the Lake County Housing Authority. The code would provide a clear definition of what is expected of all the various public bodies and their members.
"I take these appointments very seriously," he said. "It's my goal to establish a culture of accountability."
In early August, Lawlor demanded detailed information from the housing authority regarding a $122,000 separation agreement with Jeneen Smith-Underwood, who left after four months as the executive director/chief executive officer. That matter is ongoing.
Appointees would need to notify the county board office of "major events, expenditures, employment issues and other important decisions" under Lawlor's plan.
Also, information including employment contracts of the top executives and policies covering bonuses and other employment matters would be required to be provided on request of the county board chairman.
The entities also would have to follow conservative budgeting and strive to: decrease costs; post meeting schedules and agendas; complete annual Open Meetings Act training; and, follow the state-mandated county board ethics policy.
"These are good people. This isn't meant to go after them," Lawlor said. "It's to say, `This is what we expect,' so if something does go wrong, we have something to go back to."