Cronin vows 'swift action' on election commission report
DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin is promising to take “swift action” to address issues raised in a report critical of the county election commission's policies and practices.
The report, released Tuesday by the consulting firm of Crowe Horwath LLP, is suggesting that improvements be made to the DuPage County Election Commission's credit card, ethics and procurement policies to safeguard the county's financial assets. For example, the consultants are recommending the commission review all of its existing contracts to make sure they were properly awarded.
Cronin on Tuesday said the report is an “unprecedented opportunity” for the taxpayers and voters to look into the day-to-day operation and policies of the commission. The findings are “alarming,” he said.
“In light of these findings and the disturbing policies and practices that continue at the election commission, I am prepared to take swift action,” Cronin said, but he did not elaborate.
While the election commission was formed in 1974 as an independent board, the county board chairman appoints members of the three-person panel. State law requires both political parties be represented, but Republicans hold two of the three seats.
“Due to the very nature of its purpose, the election commission should represent the highest standards of transparency and accessibility,” Cronin said.
Commission officials are responding by saying the report wasn't carefully fact-checked and that it contains “numerous glaring misstatements of fact and misunderstandings of state law.”
But the written statement signed by all three commissioners — J.P. “Rick” Carney, Jeanne McNamara and Charlotte Mushow — didn't indicate what parts of the report they're challenging.
“We will respond to this report in greater detail in coming weeks and will assess any procedural operations that need tightening and continue to work with county government where possible to serve taxpayers better,” the statement reads.
The commission organizes, executes and documents all the local, state and federal elections within DuPage.
Carney said the commission has “a 100 percent success rate conducting elections” and has saved property taxpayers at least $5 million since 2006 by consolidating voting locations.
But Cronin said, “We're not talking about the accuracy of election results; we're talking about internal operations.”
Last year, Cronin called for a comprehensive assessment of two dozen county agencies after financial scandals involving the DuPage Housing Authority and the DuPage Water Commission. All the boards and commissions examined have individuals who are nominated by the county board chairman.
After seeing the report about the election commission, county board member John Curran said it's important the county “quickly” address the issues raised by the consultants.
Curran said he was “most troubled” by the consultants pointing out that the commission didn't adhere to its own rules while awarding 12 out of 13 contracts.
The consultants found instances of “incomplete file documentation, lack of competitive bidding, failure to disclose subcontractors, and lack of disclosure in the contract of the nature and of the goods or services to be provided.”
“They don't have a strong policy like us,” Curran said. “So they're free to kind of ad-lib and do as they please in these situations.”
Cronin criticized the fact that credit cards have been assigned to the commission's executive director and assistant executive director.
“I don't think there's any place for credit cards in government offices,” Cronin said. “We don't have them here. I don't believe in it. I think it's wrong. It just opens up the opportunity for problems.”
The consultants from Crowe Horwath recommended that the commission improve its credit card policy. They added that the commission's ethics policy must be brought in line with the county's.
Cronin said he wants to work with the election commission to ensure the agency gets the trust and confidence of voters and taxpayers.
“Under our administration, this will be an agency above and beyond reproach,” Cronin said. “But we're a long way from that point right now.”
Consultants reviewed 13 DuPage County Election Commission contracts and found that commission didn't follow its own guidelines in these 12:
Liberty Systems, 3-year deal for equipment maintenance; approved July 2008
Fidlar Election Co., $4.05 million for election equipment; approved October 2003
Roger Marquardt, $36,000 for a year of lobbying; approved March 2011
Liberty Systems, $4.9 million for four years of printing; approved June 2009
Liberty Systems, $268,000 for four years of professional services; approved June 2009
Bond Dickson, for a year of legal services; approved February 2011
Diehl Road Aurora LLC, $660,385 for three years of warehouse rental; approved May 2011
GateHouse Media, for four years of tabloid insertions; approved November 2011
Robis Elections Inc., for five years of software license renewal; approved March 2009
Stratus Tech, $10,824 for database upgrade; approved January 2011
SOE Software Corp., for five years of software license and maintenance; approved August 2006
WM Meyers Movers Inc., for five years of election equipment; approved January 2012