The McHenry County Board’s Management Services Committee meeting yesterday started at 8:30 and was scheduled to end at noon, when two members said they had to leave for other meetings.
The Committee heard budget presentations for three hours, then decided to postpone the rest of the topics on the agenda, except to electing the County Board Chairman/woman and the procedures followed by the Ethics Committee.
The final topic was how the Ethics Commission operates. It is under the jurisdiction of the Management Services Committee.
Mike Walkup started the discussion by asking,
“Do we have the authority to look at the Rules of the Ethics and Commission and change them?”
The short answer was “Yes.”
Walkup wanted to know if there were “any records made of the proceedings.”
John LaBaj said that there were “draft notes, fairly detailed.”
Donna Kurtz wanted to know if it were recorded.
She indicated that she thought the Ethics Commission did not look ethical.
She wondered if the Commission’s operation could put on a future meeting agenda.
“I think we all need to join hands on this and [improve the process].”
Kurtz pointed out that the proceedings were not explained.
Comparing them to the ethical complaint process McHenry County College has in place, she concluded that improvement was necessary for the County.
“If someone complains, should that person be held accountable for what we call here frivolous?”
“The complainant in this situation is now being threatened with a lawsuit.”
[Andy Zinke Attorney Mark Gummerson threatened to file a suit against the complainant–me–with penalties up to $5,000.]
“Does the State’s Attorney not provide assistance to the Committee [Commission]?” Anna Miller, mother of Zinke’s other attorney Becky Lee, asked.
She also noted that the County has an Ethics Officer, who is the Human Relations Director.
“This was the first opportunity one of these complaints [was heard],” she reminded people, noting, “Anyone can sue anyone anytime…”
Miller also pointed out, “They can do their decision making in Executive Session [secret].
“They need to create a process that is open when it’s an ethical issue,” Committee Chairwoman Paula Yensen said. “It should be out there for people to hear the pros and cons.”
She added that there “should be a findings report.”
John Labaj, who sat in on the closed Ethics Commission session, pointed out that there were differences between the way that gift ban and prohibited activities complaints were handled.
“There was no hearing,” Yensen interjected.
“And there was the disappearing sign-up sheet,” Mike Walkup added.
Walkup wondered if the potential of a $5,000 fine should be left in the rules, suggesting it could inhibit “someone’s First Amendment rights.”
The consensus was that the topic would be discussed at a future meeting.