Reconfigured DuPage election panel gets to work
Updated: June 18, 2012 8:10AM
The DuPage County Election Commission began a new era Tuesday, its two newly appointed members naming themselves chair and secretary and inviting input from the public as they address the litany of flaws recently identified by a county-hired consultant.
The three-member board is under reorganization after a damning report was released by Crowe Horwath as part of its 24-piece review of the county’s appointed boards and commissions. When the report cited substantial shortcomings in the commission’s procurement and ethics policies, Chairman Dan Cronin and the 18-member County Board asked longtime chairman J.P. “Rick” Carney to step down in late April. The two other commission members, Vice Chairwoman Charlotte Mushow and Secretary Jeanne McNamara, had not been reappointed when their terms expired over the past 15 months.
Republican Cathy Ficker Terrill of Elmhurst is the commission’s new chairwoman. West Chicago resident Art Ludwig, a Democrat, is its secretary. Representation on the board is required by law to include members of both major political parties.
A replacement for Carney has yet to be named, but Cronin has said he has his eye on a retired judge for his chosen appointee.
Terrill, appointed by Cronin to help clean up the scandal-plagued DuPage Housing Authority as its interim director a year ago, said she will also serve as the commission’s interim finance committee, because there previously was none. She and Ludwig will go over accounts payable and discuss them in a noticed meeting prior to the next regular commission meeting, which is scheduled at 9:30 a.m. May 29.
Jean Kaczsmarek of the DuPage chapter of the Ballot Integrity Project reminded the board that she and her cochair Melisa Urda began working toward an overhaul of the commission and many of its policies in 2005.
“Our goal then and now is for a transparent, accountable and secure electoral process,” she told the County Board during its regular meeting later Tuesday morning.
The local activists have been particularly critical of Executive Director Robert Saar, asserting his patent on a handheld voting device he invented creates a conflict of interest. AskEd was purchased by the commission and Saar has collected royalty payments for the invention. Cronin has said he is looking into the matter with State’s Attorney Bob Berlin.
Commission watchers also have taken issue with the its lax approach to creating a “revolving door” ethics policy provision that would establish a minimum time frame before employees and commissioners can go to work for vendors doing business with the commission. Kaczsmarek suggests at least two years.
Board members commended the work the Ballot Integrity Project devoted to the reform effort, lamenting that it long appeared to have fallen on deaf ears. District 2 representative Rita Gonzalez said she was proud of Kaczsmarek.
“I know a lot of people failed her, and I failed her too, because I wasn’t able to help her as much as I wanted to,” Gonzalez said.
Aurora board member Tony Michelassi of District 5 also praised the dedication shown by Kaczsmarek.
“I think that she is an example of the citizen oversight groups that we have here in DuPage County that are an invaluable part of our democracy,” he said.