Penny Wegman: Candidate profile, Kane County Auditor
Penny Wegman, a Democrat from Elgin, is challenging Kane County Auditor Terry Hunt, who is seeking a third term in the office, which serves as an independent watchdog over county spending and keeps records of all receipts, disbursements and funds balances.
Wegman, a county board member, has criticized Hunt's role on the Kane County Coronavirus Relief Fund Task Force and other aspects of his administration.
The Daily Herald recently asked the candidates to answer a series of questions.
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?
A: I am motivated to run for the office of Kane County Auditor because I believe that Kane County deserves an auditor that will be independent regardless of repercussions. I am disappointed that the current auditor is not an independent voice for the county.
Q: If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of any important initiatives you've led. If you are a challenger, what would you bring to the board and what would your priority be?
A: I will bring transparency, accountability and my proven independence to the Kane County Auditor's office. My priorities will be to maintain uninfluenced and unallied relationships with the other county departments and offices, be a consistent presence in the Kane County Auditor's office and ensure appropriate and effective use of taxpayer dollars.
Q: What special qualifications does a county auditor need that may not apply to other county offices? What professional qualifications or experiences do you possess that will help ensure your success as auditor?
A: The county auditor is an administrative position and requires no special qualifications. I am highly qualified to be Kane County Auditor because of both my experience and education. I have been a member of the Kane County Board for 3.5 years and my family has a long history of public service to the county. During my time on the board, I have been the chair of the Energy and Environment committee, a member of the jobs, agriculture, public service, finance and executive committees as well as a member of the Forest Preserve finance, and executive committees and the Forest Preserve Treasurer. I also earned an MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management.
Q: To what extent must an auditor remain independent of other county offices and officials, and how will you ensure the appropriate level of independence in this office?
A: The auditor must always remain independent of other county offices and officials. The Illinois State Statute clearly states the responsibilities set for the auditor. I will strictly follow these responsibilities and will decline assignments and appointments that may jeopardize the integrity of the office.
Q: Describe your position regarding the allocation of resources in the auditor's office. Are personnel allocated as they should be? Are there capital expense or other budgetary items that the office must address, and, if so, how do you propose to address them?
A: Personnel is 82% of the auditor's budget. Eight years ago, the personnel in the Kane County Auditor's office consisted of: an Elected FULL TIME AUDITOR, a Deputy Auditor and a secretary. Since then, a staff auditor has been added. As Kane County Auditor, I will be a full-time presence in the office and believe that with full-time leadership, the personnel expense can be reduced.
Q: Kane County does not provide salary and benefit information on its website about specific employees, by name, until the end of the fiscal year. Should the county provide this public information in real time?
A: Currently, I have no recommendation for this action, as it would fall under the finance department and not that of the auditor.
Q; What responsibility does the auditor have in ensuring federal dollars, such as CARES Act funds, are properly spent?
A: The role of the auditor in regards to federal funds is to ensure that the funds are dispersed in the manner that the county board has directed. The auditor is to remain an unbiased elected official who does not serve in a leadership role, nor should they chair committees that administer funds.
Q: Would you support an effort to consolidate the offices of the auditor and the treasurer?
A: The election of auditor in Kane County is required by Illinois State Statute due to population. Within this statute, one of the key responsibilities of the auditor is to audit the receipts for all county officers and departments that are presented for deposit with the county treasurer. I do not believe that a consolidation would provide the residents of Kane County the independent review of departments that was intended when the statute was created. I would not be in support of a consolidation.