Island Lake candidate concerned about transparency

  • Upper from left, John Burke and Sandy Hartogh and lower from left, Debra Jenkins and Thea Morris are candidates for Island Lake board in the 2015 election.

    Upper from left, John Burke and Sandy Hartogh and lower from left, Debra Jenkins and Thea Morris are candidates for Island Lake board in the 2015 election.

Updated 3/24/2015 4:12 PM

Three of the candidates running for seats on Island Lake's village board believe the local government is more transparent than it was under the previous administration -- but the fourth has concerns.

Trustee Thea Morris isn't happy with how Mayor Charles Amrich and her fellow trustees handle business at village hall.


Morris specifically cited as problems the lack of updated information of the village's website and Facebook page.

"Meeting minutes need to be approved and posted on the website faster," she said.

The other candidates in the April 7 election -- incumbent John Burke, newcomer Sandy Hartogh and fire and police Commissioner Debra Jenkins -- don't share Morris' apprehensions.

"Mayor Amrich is an open book," Burke said.

The four candidates are running for three seats, each of which carries a 4-year term.

Incumbent Chuck Cermak isn't running again.

The candidates talked about transparency and other issues in interviews with the Daily Herald and candidate questionnaires.

Burke, Jenkins and Hartogh are running together as a slate called the People's Alliance. In questionnaires for the Daily Herald, they've cited Amrich's endorsement in the race.

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Morris -- an outsider in the Amrich-led administration -- is running solo.

Amrich won election two years ago, soundly defeating one-term Mayor Debbie Herrmann in a divisive and ugly election. Morris was on the electoral board that twice kicked Amrich off the ballot.

A judge reinstated him before his eventual victory.

When it comes to transparency, Morris said, the trustees and other officials need to improve communication with each other and residents.

"Residents need to know what we are doing, what resources are at their disposal and what events (and) situations may impact them," said Morris, a consultant who is finishing her first term as trustee.

Morris also complained that the official summaries of meeting discussions are not being completed, approved and posted online quickly enough.

That's a task handled by the village clerk. Island Lake's elected clerk, Teresa Ponio, died this year while on medical leave. She has been temporarily replaced by ex-Clerk Jen Gomez.


Jenkins, an Amrich ally who once was in charge of his campaign committee, acknowledged meeting summaries aren't being released in a timely manner. But Gomez works only three days a week, she said.

Still, Jenkins -- who owns a business with her husband -- believes the administration is more open with the public than had been the case in the past.

Burke agreed with Jenkins.

"(Transparency has) improved a lot since Mayor Amrich took over," said Burke, an engineer who was appointed to fill a vacancy last year and is running for the first time.

Hartogh also believes the board and administration are more transparent than they used to be. She noted how board members immediately respond to questions and concerns at public meetings.

Residents should have the chance to speak their minds "without the fear of ridicule or repercussions from those whom they voted to represent them," said Hartogh, a former Daily Herald freelance writer who now works as an administrative assistant. "I believe differences of opinion are a great learning tool."

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