Northwest Herald Adds Weight to Conflict of Interest Ordinance Effort

Pete Merkel

Yesterday I weighed in with my thoughts on McHenry County Board member Pete Merkel’s apparently harsh criticism of the Alliance for Lake, Agriculture and Water’s proposal for a conflict of interest ordinance.

The group asked county board candidates whether they would support such an ordinance, but didn’t ask that they fill out the questionnaire in the ordinance.

Northwest Herald ad concerning McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler's real estate holdings the Sunday before the primary election.

Nevertheless, 20 out of 27 candidates, some from all three parties on the ballot, did so.

After the election, county board member Dan Ryan explicitly blamed his defeat on his unwillingness to volunteer to fill out the ALAW questionnaire.

And the Sunday before the election, McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler ran a half-page ad concerning his property holdings.

Clearly the issue has traction.

Today the Northwest Herald editorial adds its support for part, but not all of what ALAW wants in a new ethics requirement.

But, first the editorial dismisses Merkel’s objection that ALAW’s advocacy of the property revelation requirement for elected and appointed officials, plus consultants is political by saying,

“So what?”


“So what?”

Merkel’s opposition is political, too.

The Herald notes and I agree that it does not matter where good ideas come from?

The NW Herald does demur on a requested requirement where I wouldn’t.

It says that those who volunteer their time, that is, county officials who are not paid, should not be subjected to as strict conflict of interest scrutiny as those getting a salary.

It is my experience that people who think they are not getting paid what they are worth are most likely to take something that is not theirs. That’s why we pay police well. We don’t want them to think they are underpaid when they are enforcing, say, drug enforcement laws.

Think of how stores watch for shoplifting among lowly paid clerks.

I am sure you can come up with other examples.

So, do I think those who plan and zone property should be required to reveal any conflicts of interest?

You bet!

Tomorrow, another property-related reform that is ready for prime time in McHenry County.

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