DuPage County Board members want answers on county clerk’s election invoices

Several DuPage County Board members are asking for answers about some no-bid contracts awarded by the county clerk.

Each of the county board’s seven Republican members and two Democrats have signed a letter requesting discussion about the contracts be placed on the agenda for Tuesday’s board meeting. The contracts, which covered the printing of election material, total more than $250,000.

“We are concerned that the clerk’s office is not following Illinois state law and continues to not listen to or take the legal advice of our state’s attorney’s office,” the letter, addressed to DuPage County Board Chairwoman Deborah Conroy, states. “The issue of the clerk not working with the county has come to a tipping point and now we are talking about hundreds of thousands of ‘tax payers money’ that have no oversight or transparency. All of these invoices have to do with the fair and unbiased administering of our ‘elections’ and we question whether this is actually being done.”

In a memo to county board members, Auditor Bill White said that two January invoices arose from contracts that were not competitively bid. One of the invoices was to Runbeck Election Services, totaling $75,340 for envelopes and voting instructions for the March primary. The second invoice was from Truly Engaging, totaling $189,949 for printing and tri-fold mailers that were sent out for the March primary.

“This is for the procurement of election materials,” DuPage County Board member Jim Zay, a Carol Stream Republican, said. “If anything needs to be open and transparent, it’s got to be that.”

DuPage County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek declined to comment Thursday, saying she would have a statement on Tuesday. When asked if she would attend the meeting, Kaczmarek said, “I don’t know. I can’t say right now if I’ll be there.”

A memo from DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin notes that Chief Deputy County Clerk Adam Johnson earlier this year questioned if the clerk’s office needed to go out for a competitive bid for services. The clerk’s office has pointed to a 1973 opinion from the Illinois Attorney General that suggested they did not. However, Berlin pointed to legislation adopted in 1990 requiring that county purchases with public funds should be put out for bid.

“If county departments, funded by the county treasury, must comply with the competitive bidding statute, it follows that the county clerk, also funded by the county treasury, must do the same,” Berlin wrote. “The clerk’s contention that only purchases made by county boards are subject to competitive bidding, but not purchases made by county elected officials whose offices are funded by the county board, would lead to an absurd result.”

Last year, Kaczmarek came under scrutiny when county board members learned her office had not paid 11 invoices totaling more than $180,000. At that time, the clerk’s office had not filled out proper paperwork to get the bills paid. Those bills ultimately were paid.

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