Daily Herald opinion: DuPage clerk, board should work together to protect against costly paperwork mistakes
It was practically an all-hands-on-deck situation earlier this month when DuPage officials gathered to discuss the county losing up to $4 million in marijuana tax revenue.
The chief administrative officer, the chief financial officer, the county auditor and a representative of the state's attorney's office showed up at the county board's finance committee to help explain DuPage's failure to properly notify the state to collect the marijuana tax money for the county.
One person noticeably absent from the May 10 meeting was County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek.
Several county board members said they wanted the opportunity to ask Kaczmarek questions. They would have asked what the clerk's office did after the county board in October 2019 imposed a 3% retail tax on all sales of recreational marijuana in municipal areas of DuPage. The ordinance directed that copies of the document "shall be certified by the Clerk and sent to the Illinois Department of Revenue" before Oct. 30, 2019. Under state legislation, the tax would have taken effect in July 2020.
But county officials learned last fall -- after some raised questions about marijuana tax revenue appearing to come in low -- that the state's revenue department never received the paperwork.
As a result, DuPage never received 18 months of tax revenue generated by marijuana sales at dispensaries operating in the county. Details about the cost of the error came to light after officials did a full accounting of the potential loss.
DuPage officials say the estimated amount of lost revenue for the county is roughly $3 million to $4 million. The county board wants to know what went wrong and determine what procedures it should establish to fix it.
So county board Chairman Dan Cronin and Vice Chair Ashley Selmon sent a letter to Kaczmarek requesting that she attend next Tuesday's meeting to answer questions about the process in her office related to the filing of the marijuana tax ordinance. On Friday, Kaczmarek declined, saying "the ongoing election demands my full focus at this time." Still, our hope is that she will meet with the county board.
We understand it's a busy time for the clerk. There's a primary election going on.
Still, an error cost DuPage millions of dollars, and regardless of who's to blame, the county board is right to be trying to find out what happened. Kaczmarek herself should be doing that as well.
To date, her office has provided no documentation proving the ordinance was sent to Springfield. Whether it was mailed or not, we may never know. But without a doubt, Springfield didn't get it.
The county board and the clerk have a duty to work together to ensure a mistake of this magnitude doesn't happen again. It's unfortunate that Kaczmarek plans to miss an opportunity to do that. We hope she changes her mind.