Minority of Republicans Playing Conflict of Interest Defense

“Hostile” would be fair in characterization of McHenry County Board member Pete Merkel’s reaction to the ALAW conflict of interest proposal, as reported by Kevin Craver of the Northwest Herald

Merkel, running unopposed in the Republican primary election, did not volunteer to reveal his property ownership outside of his home or other potential conflicts of interest.

No opponent. No political need to do so.

Nevertheless, his running mate Sandy Salgado was one of the 20 people running for the county board who did fill out the Alliance for Land, Agriculture and Water ethics questionnaire.

And, so did Jeff Thirtyacre, so far, the only Democratic Party challenger in the fall election.

Merkel ran first in the primary election.

Looking at the almost final primary election results, Merkel would seem to have no reelection problems.   The Democrat received 1,800 fewer votes than Merkel.

So, he would be the perfect person to lead the charge against ALAW.

The questionnaire was politically motivate, he charges.

No question about that.

It was designed to influence the February 2nd primary election.


But, then Merkel charged that the conflict of interest form had nothing to do with “transparency and openness.”

He really should have come to the Patriots United County Board Candidates’ Forum and heard the tepid applause after incumbent Dan Ryan (R-Huntley) made known that he was not going to fill out the ALAW form.  Subsequently, Ryan blamed his loss on the questionnaire.

There he swerves from the truth and threatens to lead the Republican Party, as exemplified by its county board members, into an abyss.

No matter how insulated McHenry County’s Republican board members are from the public, even they, if they will just let their emotions subside, are capable of figuring out that Illinois voters are fed up with politics as usual.

Those who don’t think so aren’t paying attention.

Will it be the sea change that I noticed in 1969?

Before that date, the fact that Crystal Lake’s mayor worked for the biggest developer in town was no big deal.

Everybody had to work somewhere.

Then the Crystal Lake Jaycees, many of whom lived in Coventry, the development built by that developer, did a fire safety project. They discovered that in the back section of Coventry fire trucks could not get through if cars were parked on the streets.

Then, it became important where the mayor worked.

Tony Wujcik beat incumbent Mayor Lou Goosens handily in the 1971 election. (More about that change in ethical standards here.)

To mix metaphors, are we at a similar fault line now?

I think so.

McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler was one of three re-nominated incumbents who has so far not completed the ALAW conflict of interest form.

Twenty of twenty-seven candidates for county board voluntarily completed ALAW’s questionnaire.

Of those who won nomination in the Republican Party, incumbents

  • Anna May Miller,
  • Ken Koehler,
  • Pete Merkel, plus
  • newcomer Robert Nowak

are a minority of 4 out of 12 GOP county board candidates on the ballot this fall who did not do so.

Democrat incumbent Jim Kennedy is the only Democrat who did not fill one out.

Maybe these four incumbents know something that the rest of the people (sans District 1 newcomer Robert Nowak) running for county board don’t know.

Eight of twelve people on the Republican Part ballot this fall have filled out the form are:

  • Donna Kurtz
  • Nick Provenzano
  • Barb Wheeler
  • Sandy Salgado
  • Tina Hill
  • John Jung
  • Diane Evertsen
  • Mary McCann

Among the Democrats, two-thirds answered ALAW’s questions:

  • Jeff Thirtyacre
  • Lori McConville

So did the only Green Party candidate:

  • Frank Wedig

So, maybe those out of step with the times are those who have not yet sent in the questionnaire.

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I’ll have some more comments a bit later.

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