DuPage election head's business ties may be scrutinized again
Nearly three years after DuPage County prosecutors decided the election commission's executive director didn't break any laws by accepting royalties from a vendor, county board Chairman Dan Cronin wants to make sure that legal opinion was correct.
Cronin said Thursday he's planning to ask the revamped DuPage Board of Election Commissioners to address issues raised in a report critical of the agency. He said that should include taking another look at the financial ties Executive Director Robert Saar once had to Robis Elections Inc., a Wheaton-based company that does work for the commission.
"That is a relationship that has gotten some attention," Cronin said. "I want them to reexamine it."
Cronin says the second look is needed even though the state's attorney's office concluded in July 2009 that Saar didn't violate state law when he received royalties from Robis for election software he helped create.
At the time, then-State's Attorney Joe Birkett said Saar should have disclosed that he was the patent-holder of the software and was receiving about $10,000 a year from sales of the product. However, Birkett said there was no indication that Saar was aware that he should have listed the income.
But just because Birkett issued an opinion several years ago doesn't mean the new election board can't review the issue, Cronin said.
"Let's re-examine it," he said. "Let's make sure that what's going on over there is completely proper."
Before the state's attorney started looking into the issue, Saar received a legal opinion from commission attorney Patrick Bond saying the relationship with Robis was aboveboard.
Saar said he never received payments for the product sold in DuPage or anywhere else in Illinois. When the state's attorney's office was asked to investigate in January 2009, it was announced that Saar was giving up financial rights to the election software.
"I get no royalties at all. None. Zero," Saar said Thursday, declining to comment further.
The original state's attorney review was done at the urging of Glen Ellyn resident Jean Kaczmarek. On Thursday, she said she agreed with Cronin that the issue should be re-examined.
"It will require strong leadership and courage to correct the malfeasance we've uncovered the past seven years," said Kaczmarek, who is co-chair of the DuPage chapter of the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project.
Meanwhile, one of the suggestions made by the consulting firm of Crowe Horwath LLC is that the commission needs to bring its ethics policy in line with the county's. That would prevent business relationships between commission staff and vendors in the future.
The consultants also recommended the election commission review all of its existing contracts to make sure they were properly awarded. They pointed out the agency didn't adhere to its own rules while awarding 12 out of 13 contracts.
One example cited in the Crowe Horwath report was a software license renewal agreement that commissioners approved in March 2009 with Robis. The five-year deal was adopted despite missing documentation, including a contract/agreement document, according to the report.