DuPage County clerk won’t attend board meeting to discuss no-bid contracts

DuPage County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek says she will not attend a Tuesday meeting to answer questions from county board members about two no-bid contracts, totaling more than $250,000, for materials related to the April primary.

In a letter sent Monday to DuPage County Board Chairwoman Deborah Conroy, Kaczmarek said she is not an employee of the county board and that she has the authority to make decisions about how she spends her budget. She also suggested that a courtroom, not the county board room, is the proper venue to discuss the issue.

“With the 2024 General Election approaching, it is essential that the county clerk can make the purchases required to ensure DuPage County voters enjoy full access to the ballot,” Kaczmarek wrote, “and I am prepared to take legal action if necessary to carry out my office’s duties.”

She notes this is the second time in less than a year that county board members have targeted her office and raised questions about invoices related to election services.

“These vendors must be paid, and the interference with the independent administration of DuPage County elections must end,” she wrote.

Conroy responded with a statement, saying the issue is not if the invoices will get paid. She said it is how the clerk’s office is awarding contracts.

“The DuPage County auditor and state’s attorney have raised issues with certain invoices, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, that were not competitively bid,” Conroy said in the statement.

“I struggle to understand why the county clerk’s office refuses to comply with state bidding laws, which were created to protect public entities and the taxpayers of Illinois, to ensure that public officials award business fairly at the best possible price,” she added. “No elected official is exempt from state law. It’s that simple.”

County Auditor Bill White has said that two January invoices — one totaling $75,340 for envelopes and voting instructions and another for $189,949 for printing and tri-fold mailers for the primary — arose from contracts that were not competitively bid.

Last week, 10 county board members, including seven Republicans and three Democrats, signed a letter to Conroy asking for a public discussion about the invoices. They wanted Kaczmarek to answer questions during the board meeting on Tuesday.

County board member Jim Zay said that before she was elected county clerk, Kaczmarek kept a close watch on the former DuPage County Election Commission. He said Kaczmarek would have demanded action if the election commission awarded no-bid contracts.

“Before, Jean (Kaczmarek) was the watchdog,” Zay said. “Now she’s not bidding things.”

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