Lake County Board candidates disagree on need for ethical reforms
The candidates for the 10th District seat on the Lake County Board differ on the need for ethics reforms in county government.
Republican incumbent Charles "Chuck" Bartels called the county's ethics rules "the toughest" in the area and suggested no improvements. Democratic challenger Jessica Vealitzek disagreed, saying the county contract process should be more transparent, particularly when it comes to political donations and familial connections to county government.
Bartels and Vealitzek discussed ethics and other issues in a joint candidate interview with the Daily Herald.
They'll face off Nov. 6 for the 10th District seat, which serves parts of Mundelein, Hawthorn Woods, Round Lake Park, Wauconda and Long Grove.
Ethical behavior has been a prominent issue in Lake County since officials learned board Chairman Aaron Lawlor repeatedly used a county-issued credit card to make personal purchases. Illinois State Police are investigating.
Vealitzek, an activist and author from Hawthorn Woods, said increasing government transparency would be a priority if elected.
"County government is sorely lacking in that area," she said.
Vealitzek says she is particularly concerned about awarding county contracts to vendors that have made campaign donations to board members or that have familial or social connections to board members or county officials.
Government contracts legally are allowed to go to companies that employ relatives or friends. Likewise, companies are allowed to financially support political campaigns.
Local candidates are supposed to report campaign donations to the Illinois State Board of Elections on forms that are available for public review once the campaign reaches a threshold for spending or contributions.
Vealitzek said she wants relationships and campaign contributions to be declared on county forms that would be available for public review. Cook and DuPage counties have similar requirements.
"It's a one-page, simple (form)," she said.
Next week, the board will vote on a proposal to require companies seeking county contracts to reveal familial connections between owners and any county employees or officials.
When asked to respond to Vealitzek's concerns, Bartels, of Mundelein, said he didn't like the "tone" of her campaign.
"You're either operating out of ignorance of the law and of the facts or you're operating out of malice," said Bartels, a board member since 2014.
Bartels said local, state and federal laws already require financial disclosures in the contract process to prevent conflicts of interest. Additionally, Bartels said, county officials file annual financial disclosure reports.
Although he said the board should look at its ethics rules for possible improvements, Bartels offered no suggestions.
"I don't see any need for ethics reform," he said.
Bartels and Vealitzek agree the county should revoke credit cards issued to board members. Bartels never has been issued a card.