Maria Peterson Profile
Name: Maria Peterson
City: North Barrington
Office sought: Lake County Board Member, District 17
Family: Married 34 years to Ken Peterson. Three grown sons - All working and living independently. The oldest lives in New York City, the middle one with his wife and son in Minneapolis and the youngest in Tokyo.
Occupation: Retired attorney: Practiced both in the public and private sectors; Currently: Small business owner of FitCore, Inc.
Education: Loyola University of Chicago, 1985. BS in Organizational Communications and Criminal Justice The John Marshall Law School, JD 1989
Civic involvement: Current Board member of the Village of North Barrington Plan Commission; Former Board member of Citizens Utility Board and State Employees Retirement System of Illinois; Active member of Barrington Breakfast Rotary Club, Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce, Wauconda Area Chamber of Commerce, Caring Women's Connection, League of Women Voters of Lake County, Sierra Club, Citizens for Conservation, and Barrington Area Conservation Trust.
Elected offices held: Elected Parent Representative on a Local School Council in Chicago
Questions & Answers
Question 1: If you are a challenger, what would you bring to the board and what would your priority be?
I have had extensive experience managing and owning businesses and know how to control spending and operate efficiently. I want to bring that business expertise to the County Board where financial oversight and controls have been lacking. County Board members need to care deeply about giving taxpayers maximum value for their tax dollars and keeping those taxes as low as possible.
My priority is to be an available and knowledgeable liaison between residents and their county government, villages, and townships. One cannot be a representative without meeting with elected officials and constituents often to find out what their needs are.
Recently, I was able to connect a local homeowners association with the County so they could complete a road project efficiently. The only way I even found out about this was because I was attending a local village board meeting. And then I decided to help them even though I am not the official County Board member. That's what a county board member should do.
I would love to see us reduce our tax levy on homeowners, if we can, and I will fight to see that this happens.
Question 2: What is the single biggest need in your district?
The single biggest need in my district is active representation. For the last eighteen months I have attended almost every Village Board and Township meeting for the eight villages and three townships in the 17th District. I have had one-on-one meetings with the Village Presidents and Trustees. Additionally, I have gone door to door and talked with voters. I have heard, repeatedly, from voters and elected officials, that our current representative is rarely seen in the District and seems to consider his County Board responsibilities a low priority.
For instance, our current board member has neglected to make appointments to boards that make decisions affecting flood control and fire protection in our area.
I want to be a problem solver for residents in this district and I want people to always have a place to get answers, even if their problem doesn't directly concern the County Board. I want to bring people together to make sure their concerns are addressed effectively. I was raised to believe that if you take on a job, you should work at it above and beyond expectations. That's how I have always approached a job and the job of county board member will be treated no differently.
Question 3: Should the county government eliminate procurement cards, or p-cards, for county board members? Should county board members even have expense accounts? County board members in some other counties don't, their salaries cover work expenses. Should employees' p-cards be eliminated, too?
Yes, procurement cards must be eliminated for county board members and employees. There have not been controls in place for the use of these cards and, it seems, no one cared how this money was spent. It is unclear how a county with a half billion dollar budget had no procedures for carefully managing 260 procurement cards. Going forward, we must make sure that every dollar spent by employees and Board Members is used for county-related purposes, not personal pleasure.
A clear and concise list of what constitutes "County Board Business" should be presented to each county board member and agreed to. A blank check of $7000 per Board Member per year seems arbitrary. How was that figure arrived at? If a member has a legitimate County Board business expense, he or she can submit a receipt with a report and get reimbursed -- just as many businesses do. (I also stated this to the LCB at their August 14, 2018 Board Meeting).
I also do not agree that, from this annual $7,000 expense account, County Board members should be allowed to self-promote via postcards on county stationary and postage. There should be no self-promotion on the taxpayer's dollar. Board Members are elected officials and should meet and serve their constituents very often through forums, coffees, and appointments. As for county employees, they should submit a requisition for purchases, and accounting can follow through and keep records -- just like a business.
Question 4: Is the county doing enough to control expenses? What additional, specific steps do you recommend?
This current County Board has gone on too long without adequate rules regarding spending and transparency in hiring and contracting. As a fiscal responsibility hawk, I advocate that each dollar received and spent by County Government must be accounted for -- dollar for dollar.
The Lake County Board must maintain an "eagle's eye" regarding the taxpayer's money -- but the Board has not. Money seems to be spent regularly with no accountability or follow-up. No-bid contracts are given out to long-term vendors, even for large expenditures. In 2016, it came to light that the County had spent $4.9 million for a failed e-filing system with a vendor who had a long-standing relationship with the County. Taxpayers deserve to know who received that money, and why that money was wasted. I do not understand why our current County Board member has not called for a forensic audit of this waste of taxpayer money.
Some other counties require reporting by vendors about their political donations to elected officials, as well as their connections to county employees before contracts are approved. I believe this is a good system. Otherwise, who is looking out for the taxpayer's benefit?
Lastly, I would restart the video taping of the Finance and Administration Committee meetings that were abruptly terminated in November, 2017. As Louis Brandeis stated, "sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants".
Question 5: Historically, county board meetings have been free of partisanship and political antics -- but party-line fighting has become more noticeable in recent years. How do you feel about that?
Partisanship is not the problem. What we are witnessing is a group of County Board members (from both parties) asking for accountability and transparency in the oversight of a half billion dollar budget. These members are concerned about the unquestioned "business as usual" business practices that come from 167 years of one-party rule.
The procedure for County Board members' procurement card usage sheds light on systemic problems that runs through the County government. There is: 1) no committee tasked to oversee procurement cards; 2) the appointed chairman approves the card statements for those who appointed him; 3) the appointed administrator approves the card statements for the chairman who appointed him; and 4) the appointed administrator says it's not his job to police the cards.
Further the most obvious committee to oversee the procurement card, Finance and Administration, has a Chairman that is more concerned about who filed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that exposed the procurement cards abuse than about the abuse itself.
I suggest that what we see here is resistance, by some in the majority party, to the calls for greater transparency and accountability that are coming from Board members on both sides of the aisle.