Lake County Board delays vote on vendor disclosure plan

  • Lake County Administrator Barry Burton

    Lake County Administrator Barry Burton

 
 
Updated 10/5/2018 4:56 PM

Lake County Board members on Friday said they will delay voting on a proposal to require vendors seeking government contracts to disclose familial relationships with county employees and some elected officials because the plan still needs work.

The policy was to face a vote during Tuesday's county board meeting in Waukegan. But so many questions and suggested changes came up during a review of the plan at Friday's committee-of-the-whole meeting in Libertyville, the panel decided to pull it from the agenda.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The county board's financial and administrative committee will go over the proposal again. It could be brought back to the full board in November.

As it stands now, the measure would require vendors submitting bids or professional proposals worth at least $30,000 to disclose the names of owners, principals and officers and the names of any immediate family members who are employed by Lake County.

The eight countywide elected officials, including sheriff and county clerk, are considered county employees. The 21 county board members are not.

Publicly traded companies and utility companies would be exempt.

The county's purchasing team would review the disclosure statements and make sure relatives aren't involved in the contract evaluation or selection processes.

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The reports would be considered public documents.

The plan was proposed as a one-year pilot project. But several board members on Friday said it shouldn't have an expiration date.

"I think we should just do it and then change and amend as needed," said Ann Maine, a Lincolnshire Republican.

Board member Sandy Hart, a Lake Bluff Democrat, said she'll propose making contractors disclose familial ties to the board, too.

Board member Sidney Mathias, a Buffalo Grove Republican, wants the disclosure statements to be given to the board before any contract votes, something that isn't required in the current draft.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The proposal was developed during a broader review of ethics-related policies in county government.

That effort was prompted, in part, by revelations that county board Chairman Aaron Lawlor repeatedly used a county-issued credit card to make personal purchases. Illinois State Police are investigating, and Lawlor is on an extended leave of absence.

Additionally, some candidates have tried to make a campaign issue out of the fact that two prominent county employees -- Deputy County Administrator Amy McEwan and Chief Communications Officer Jennie Vana -- are married to men whose companies have county contracts.

In both cases, the spouses' professional relationships with the county predate the personal relationships.

During Friday's committee meeting, County Administrator Barry Burton lashed out at the candidates making political hay out of those relationships. Without identifying them, he said they're misleading the public.

"The people that are making the allegations know better," Burton said. "It's reprehensible."

Jessica Vealitzek, one of the board candidates who's voiced concern about vendors with ties to county government, said conflicts of interest should be fully disclosed.

"And the public should not have to jump through hoops to find them," said Vealitzek, a Hawthorn Woods Democrat challenging Republican incumbent Chuck Bartels of Mundelein for the 10th District seat.

Regardless of this delay, the county board on Tuesday is expected to approve changes to the vendor evaluation process designed to strengthen its rules. For example, county employees involved in the evaluation process will have to document that they've reviewed the county's purchasing and ethics ordinance annually.

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