Lake County Board rejects package of rules changes covering attendance, financial disclosure

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that the Lake County Board is considering limiting a member's electronic attendance of meetings using telephone or video services to twice annually for employment-related reasons. There would be no limit for family issues, illness, disability or emergencies.

Primarily hung up on a single procedural change, Lake County Board members have rejected a long list of proposed rules modifications covering electronic meeting attendance, decorum and many other topics.

The entire package now goes back to the board's rules committee.

The changes were scuttled during Tuesday's board meeting in Waukegan by objections to a proposed time frame for amendments to ordinances being considered by the board.

Committee leader Paul Frank said the group will reconsider the issue but not any of the other recommended rules changes, as no board members objected to them.

"We're not starting over from scratch," said Frank, a Highland Park Democrat. "We'll go back and talk about just that one piece."

The rejected measure was the latest batch of proposed rules changes for the board. Many of the commissioners elected in November ran on platforms urging reform of board spending rules and disclosure policies.

Among the proposed changes, the package:

• Included language that specified some of the values and ethics of the board and set behavioral expectations.

• Limited a member's electronic attendance of board meetings using telephone or video services to twice annually for employment-related reasons. There would be no limit for family issues, illness, disability or emergencies.

• Required members to disclose spending related to county work on the county website.

• Requested commissioners email copies of proposed amendments to agenda items to all members 24 hours before meetings.

It was this last item that drew criticism from several commissioners Tuesday.

Fox Lake Republican Judy Martini led the objections, saying commissioners should be able to propose amendments during meetings as usual.

"A lot of times you may not know until the last minute, through deliberations at the floor level, that there will be amendments," Martini said.

Other critics included Fox River Grove Republican Michael Danforth, who said it could have "a chilling effect on the business that we do."

Martini also voiced concerns about the proposed rule for electronic attendance and a separate stipulation about committee attendance requirements, saying both were too lenient.

"If you're elected to the county board, you should do everything you possible can to attend and be live at a meeting," she said.

In response, board Chairwoman Sandy Hart noted one former board member attended many meetings electronically due to a health issue and still "was completely engaged."

"We're not going to abuse this policy," said Hart, of Lake Bluff. "I know everybody does their best to attend in person."

As for the proposal regarding amendments, Hart stressed it would just be a courtesy, "not a hard-and-fast rule."

"Amendments can and will be made on the board floor," Hart said.

Revisions to board rules require 14 votes for passage, but only 12 commissioners supported the proposal.

Voting "yes" were Frank, Hart and fellow Democrats Jennifer Clark of Libertyville, Mary Ross Cunningham of Waukegan, Adam Didech of Buffalo Grove, Angelo Kyle of Waukegan, Julie Simpson of Vernon Hills, Jessica Vealitzek of Hawthorn Woods, John Wasik of Grayslake and Terry Wilke of Round Lake Beach, as well as Republicans Steve Carlson of the Gurnee area and Linda Pedersen of Antioch.

Martini, Danforth and six other commissioners voted against the plan: Republicans Dick Barr of Round Lake Beach, Brent Paxton of Zion, Mike Rummel of Lake Forest and Craig Taylor of Lake Zurich; and Waukegan Democrats Bill Durkin and Diane Hewitt.

Republican Ann Maine of Lincolnshire was absent.

After the meeting, Barr said he will suggest language that will allow commissioners to make amendments during meetings but will courteously request notice.

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Judy Martini
Sandy Hart
Dick Barr
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