New legislation could end feud between DuPage County Board and county clerk

DuPage County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek (left), DuPage County Board Chair Deb Conroy (right)
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New legislation approved in Springfield earlier this week could end the controversy between the DuPage County Board, and County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek over unpaid invoices and a lack of a competitive bidding at the source.

Conroy says new law provides the “highest level of clarity” for DuPage County

During Tuesday’s DuPage County Board meeting, Board Chair Deb Conroy said updated language approved Tuesday, May 28, by the Illinois General Assembly provides the “highest level of clarity” regarding the ongoing issue with the clerk’s office.

“Any purchase of services, materials, equipment, or supplies by a county or elected official, including those with internal control over their offices, in excess of $30,000, other than professional services, must be competitively bid,” Conroy said.

Conroy continued, detailing that the law now states the county board needs a two-thirds majority to transfer requests affecting capital or personnel expenses. The legislation applies to all elected officials, including those with “internal control of their office.”

The law would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2025, and needs to be approved by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, but Conroy stated she expects the clerk and her staff to “adhere to the statutes.”

“I have never viewed this issue with the clerk’s office as a dispute,” said Conroy. “The way I see it, in DuPage County, we value transparency, we are guided by the principle of fiscal responsibility. The only way to build trust with taxpayers is to communicate by our words.”

Kaczmarek was not in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting, and her deputy clerk, Adam Johnson, provided no comment on the issue during the meeting.

Unpaid invoices and lack of competitive bidding at the source

The issue between the DuPage County Board and the clerk’s office stemmed from $224,000 in invoices for services that did not go through the proper approval channels or contracts that weren’t put out for competitive bidding.

The payment of the invoices in question is being held up, the board says, due to a lack of action by the clerk’s office.

Kaczmarek however said in a May 7 memo to DuPage County Board Chair Deborah Conroy that she’d consider legal against the county if invoices her office submitted weren’t paid by the county treasurer.

Vendor, board members speak out at May 14 meeting

At the previous DuPage County Board meeting on May 14, CEO of Truly Engaging Brenda Baird-Watterson appeared before the board during public comment. She requested that an outstanding invoice for $189,000 to her printing business sent to the county over 100 days prior be paid.

“My ask is that whoever has the legal authority today to give authority to pay not just us, but any other vendors… there are other vendors that are looking for payment as well. We’re a small business but we are real people. And we are your constituents,” said Baird-Watterson.

In the case of Truly Engaging, the invoice had not yet been paid as according to a May 8 memo from Conroy to Kaczmarek, it had been lacking details and was signed by someone without approval authorization, as reported by the Daily Herald.

Several DuPage County Board members spoke out at the May 14 meeting against the clerk’s conduct, with District 6 board member James Zay calling it “a black eye for the county.”

In early May, the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office announced it was preparing a civil complaint against the DuPage County Clerk’s Office. Kaczmarek also threatened legal action if invoices her office turned in were not paid.

As of Friday, May 31, no legal action has been taken by either the state’s attorney or Kaczmarek.

Kaczmarek and Conroy have not had discussions about moving forward with the issue.

Jean Kaczmarek was not available for comment.

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