DuPage County Board member says fellow Democrats are bullying her

A DuPage County Board member who raised questions about a $2 million contract for election equipment this week found herself being scrutinized by fellow Democrats for meeting with a vendor.

The board member — Sadia Covert of Naperville — fired back by saying she's faced repeated “bullying, intimidation and harassment” from some of the Democrats on the county board.

“I have never been attacked by a man on this county board,” Covert said during Tuesday's meeting. “But I've been constantly attacked by the female members — some of the female members — on this board.”

All seven women on the 18-member county board are Democrats; all 11 Republicans are men.

On Wednesday, the four Democratic board members Covert referred to — Mary FitzGerald Ozog of Glen Ellyn, Elizabeth Chaplin of Downers Grove, Julie Renehan of Hinsdale and Dawn DeSart of Aurora — said they've had disagreements with Covert but denied claims of harassment.

“To my knowledge, no member — male or female — has ‘attacked' Sadia,” DeSart said in a statement. “As a first-time elected official, perhaps she has mistaken robust debate for something personal. Those of us who have held elected positions over the years know these debates are necessary for good governance, and are not personal in any way.”

Ozog said Covert was asked about meeting with the election equipment vendor because there were concerns it was inappropriate.

“If she does something, I'm going to express my opinion,” Ozog said. “But it's not personal. Nobody has called her any names. We called her out on what she was doing.”

On Tuesday, the county board unanimously approved a roughly $2 million contract for electronic poll books. But before the vote, Covert raised questions about the reliability of the devices and sought to delay the vote for two weeks.

It was during that discussion that Covert said she had met with another election equipment vendor. Ozog then asked her to provide details.

Covert said she met with the vendor before DuPage issued a request for proposals for the electronic poll books, “so very well within the ethical time limit.”

Covert said she made the visit to see how election equipment works. She said she had no further contact with the company after the process to request proposals began.

But Renehan said Tuesday that it seemed “highly unusual” for a board member to meet with a vendor. “It's concerning,” she said.

Republican county board members defended Covert on Tuesday.

Board member Robert Larsen said doing research is part of being an elected official.

“We should never be afraid of information,” the Wheaton Republican said. “And I don't think we should assume the worst about our fellow board members when they're trying to gather that information.”

Covert later stood and made her remark about being “constantly attacked” by some female board members.

When asked on Tuesday what she meant, Covert said, “There's been a lot of bullying, intimidation and harassment from certain county board members.”

Covert said the problems started in December, when she sided with the board's 11 Republicans to accept committee assignments and leadership roles. At the time, the six other Democrats voiced displeasure about how Republicans were picked to head the most prominent committees. DeSart was the only board member not given a committee chairmanship.

On Wednesday, Chaplin said the debate over committee assignments was one of many instances where Covert “has not been respectful” of the Democrats on the board.

“We just don't see her as a team player,” Chaplin said. “She doesn't support the other women on the board.”

But Chaplin stressed that her criticism of Covert is nothing personal.

“This is politics,” Chaplin said. “It's a tough game. You need to be able to deal with it.”

Renehan said in a statement that she takes bullying very seriously. She said it's not a word that applies when colleagues disagree.

“In a governing body, or in almost any job, disagreements occur,” Renehan said. “They are not personal in nature. Disagreements can be informative as we learn the point of view of others, and they can be constructive to a broader view.”

Covert says she just wants to do her job as a county board member in peace.

“I'm hoping to represent my constituents to the best of my ability,” she said. “I'm fighting hard to do that.”

Dawn DeSart
Mary FitzGerald Ozog
Julie Renehan
Elizabeth Chaplin
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