Kane County set for another try to overhaul broken ethics policy
Kane County's broken ethics policy will receive yet another attempted overhaul as a third different state's attorney administration is pushing forward with changes that could hold elected officials to more stringent local standards for the first time.
The county board put in place an ethics policy a decade ago that governs everything from political contributions to full disclosure of the personal and financial relationships officials have with companies receiving county taxpayer money. The ordinance has existed in paper form only as the last two Kane County state's attorneys declared many of the provisions unenforceable.
No ethics investigations have ever resulted in punishment or reprimand since the policy was put in place, though multiple complaints have been filed against various officials. Those include complaints about campaign donations resulting in preferential treatment for those making the donations.
New county state's attorney Jamie Mosser put forward an attempt to remedy that situation Wednesday as her staff proposed the creation of an ethics commission. That may address the long-standing conflict of interest problem the ethics ordinance contains.
As the policy stands, Mosser's office is in charge of investigating ethics complaints. However, the state's attorney is also the attorney for all of the county's elected officials. That puts the state's attorney in the position of investigating his or her own clients.
A previous county board tried to revise the ethics ordinance to make it enforceable. Most of the changes involved weakening the ordinance, which elected officials didn't want to associate themselves with -- particularly during a reelection year. The result was the original policy remaining in place but few to none of the requirements being enforced.
The current county board is less than a year away from the local primary election and possibly facing new constituents after a pending redistricting. That could make any proposed changes more difficult to pass through the board.
Kane County Board member Mark Davoust, one of the authors of the original ethics policy, said creating an ethics policy with teeth is worth the effort.
"From the moment we released it, it was under attack and scrutiny," Davoust said. "Yet, here it still is. It's not that it doesn't need work; it clearly does. But it isn't easy."
Davoust already questioned how the creation of an ethics commission would be any different from the state's attorney's office recusing itself and bringing in outside counsel for ethics investigations. A response to that, as well as additional proposed changes to the ethics requirements, will be part of a series of meetings that may get placed into a subcommittee for a more intense review before it comes to the full county board.