Cronin to lay down law to DuPage boards
Financial mismanagement by two DuPage County agencies has the county's top elected official determined to use his new oversight authority to monitor the spending of the myriad boards and commissions he appoints.
DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin is scheduled to meet Wednesday with representatives from dozens of local agencies to discuss what's expected now that state law requires them to provide budget details and other financial information to the county.
The new state law, which Gov. Pat Quinn signed last month, is in part a response to financial scandals involving the DuPage Housing Authority and the DuPage Water Commission.
"We have to take on this responsibility because the system isn't working," said Cronin, who took office in January after serving as a state senator. "If we can implement certain policies and practices, I think we stand a better chance of avoiding problems and scandals and mismanagement in the future."
Cronin replaced the housing authority board after a series of federal audits showed that the agency misspent or failed to account for more than $10 million. And the water commission has been dealing with the fallout of accidentally spending $69 million in reserves through poor accounting practices and lackadaisical financial oversight.
"Given what has happened," Cronin said, "I can't say with confidence that I know what's going on out there. I don't know what procurement practices are employed at every board and commission. I don't know how they handle ethics. I don't know how they conduct business."
Cronin is responsible for nominating more 250 people to serve on 52 local different boards and commissions. They include fire protection districts, sanitary districts and mosquito abatement districts.
"I know there are boards and commissions that were set up with the understanding -- with the intent -- that they would be independent," Cronin said. "While independence may be appropriate in some cases, it sort of allowed for a system where really nobody was held accountable."
The chairman stressed that he's not looking to micromanage the agencies. However, he plans to gather information about the agencies that will be posted on the county's website.
"We really want more disclosure," Cronin said. "We want more transparency."
In the long-term, Cronin said he will explore consolidation and privatization opportunities in order to provide services more efficiently.
As for Wednesday's meeting, Cronin said he plans to take note of who doesn't attend.
"They are all invited," he said. "So if there are some who don't respond, I think that will give us a pretty good idea about whether or not they want to be held accountable."