DuPage County, Illinois

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DuPage County is one of 102 102 counties in Illinois. Its county seat is the city of Wheaton. This county is part of the Chicago metropolitan area. The population estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau for 2008 is 930,528, making it the second most populous county in Illinois after Cook County, which borders it to the north and east; the two counties account for half of the state's population. The county is divided into nine different townships: Addison, Bloomingdale, Downers Grove, Lisle, Milton, Naperville, Wayne, Winfield and York. The majority of DuPage County is in the 630 and 331 area codes. However, the areas of the county that are in the city of Chicago are in area code 773, primarily part of O'Hare International Airport.[1]

Long known as one of the nation's wealthiest counties, DuPage County has transformed itself from a primarily agricultural economy to one rich in many different types of commerce. Today, DuPage County has a per capita income which is the highest in the state. DuPage County's per capita income is also the highest in the midwest; nineteen of the county's towns have average household incomes of over $100,000.

The most populous municipality within DuPage County is Naperville. The next largest communities are Wheaton and Downers Grove. A small portion of the City of Chicago is located within the county limits; however, this area is primarily commercial and, as of recent census estimates, has only 230 residents. It also has some of the city Aurora, which is within the county as well.

Website evaluation

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Budget Y
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Meetings Y
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Elected Officials Y
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Administrative Officials P
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Permits, zoning Y
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Audits Y
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Contracts
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Lobbying
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Public records Y
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Local taxes Y
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Transparency grading process


In 2011 DuPage County earned a Sunny Awards for having a perfect website transparency score. It also recently upgraded it's website to be more user-friendly, adding new ways to navigate the site. “The new dupageco.org will provide residents with easier access to a lot more information,” said Brien Sheahan, Technology Committee chairman. “While the old website could be hard to navigate, it did supply residents with a great deal of information regarding county government and services.”

This Web site was mos recently reviewed Nov. 27, 2012.

Main Article: Evaluation of Illinois county websites

The good

  • Budget
    • The most current budget is listed.
    • Budgets are archived for 10 years.[2]
  • Administrative Officials
    • Department heads are listed for each department.[3]
    • Contact information for administrative officials is provided including a mailing address, phone number, and some have department email addresses.
  • Elected Officials
    • Elected officials are listed with a mailing address, phone number and personalized email.[4]
  • Meetings
    • Meeting minutes are archived for 6 years.
    • Meeting agendas are archived for 6 years.
    • A meeting calendar is available and names the times and locations of public meetings.[5]
    • Meeting videos are available.[6]
  • Audits
    • The most recent audit is posted.
    • Audits dating back to 2003 are available.[7]
  • Contracts
    • Bids and RFPs are posted online.[8]
    • Approved contract statements are provided for vendors.[9]
  • Public Records
    • The public information officer is identified and maintained by a separate employee for each department. This person provides a mailing address, phone number and personalized email.[10]
    • A public records form is provided by the FOIA page.
    • A fee schedule for documents is provided.[11]
  • Taxes
    • Tax revenues are broken down by federal, state, and local funding in the budget.
    • Local taxes, like property taxes, are available online.[12]
    • Residents are able to pay taxes online.[13]
  • Lobbying
  • Permits and zoning
    • Zoning ordinances are posted online.[15]
    • Permit applications can be downloaded on the site, along with information on how to apply for the permits.[16]

The bad

  • Administrative Officials
    • Personalized emails are not provided for department heads.

Budget

In October, 2009, the Civic Federation endorsed DuPage County’s FY2010 budget plan, stating that "it maintains funding for core programs while providing property tax relief."[17] In October 2010, the bond rating agency Fitch's granted DuPage County a 'AAA' rating. Fitch's said the county's aggregate debt burden is "manageable and future capital needs are modest." Fitch's also reported DuPage County's ability to "maintain financial margins amidst the current economic downturn especially given its reliance upon economically sensitive revenue sources."[18]

For the seventh year in a row, DuPage County received the highest form of recognition in government budgeting from the Government Finance Officers Association. The county’s budget is reviewed annually by the Government Finance Officers Association to assess how well it meets nationally recognized guidelines as a policy document, financial plan, an operations guide and a communications device. The county’s budget documents were rated “proficient” in all four categories including the 14 mandatory criteria within those categories.

Ethics Ordinance amendments

In January 2010, the County Board adopted amendments[19] to the county's Ethics Ordinance. The full text, along with information explaining the changes and the ordinance was made available. Additional links point to pages identifying:[20]

  • Members of the Ethics Commission, their responsibilities, and meeting schedule,
  • Procedures for filing a complaint along with the requisite form,
  • Contractor/Vendor Forms and instructions related to Procurement Services, which are required in order to affirm that a Contractor/Vendor including all principals of the business and their family members have not made any prohibited gifts to the Board Chairman, Board Members, any County employee or spouse or family member thereof,
  • Disclosure of campaign contributions to all County officials within the prior 12 months.

At least one county, Kane County, has followed in DuPage County's footsteps, attempting similar ethics ordinance reforms.[21]

Transparency reforms

Livestreaming County Board meetings

The county is working on live streaming webcasts of County Board meetings, which will afterward be available for viewing on-demand,[22] and anticipates implementation in April, 2010.

Posts check register

On January 12, 2009, Dupage County began posting its checkbook register online. The three new reports posted on the Auditor’s website will include: a detailed listing of county payments made by each elected office and department; a detailed report of payments grouped by vendor; and a detailed report of contract payments grouped by vendor.[23][24],[25]

The policy was enacted under its new Auditor, Bob Grogan, who took office in December of 2008. A year later, Grogan is working to also post the salaries and contracts for the county.[26] He hopes it will encourage to be transparent and is offering the code free-of-charge to any that are interested.[26]

Ad Hoc Panel for transparency

Shortly after the posting the county check register, the County Chairman Robert J. Schillerstrom formed an Ad Hoc panel to discuss future tools and practices to allow greater government transparency.[27]

FOIA

DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba is being investigated for allowing his then 17-year old son to go on ride-alongs and for having access to the confidential Illinois Law Enforcement Agencies Data System, or LEADS. The Better Government Association is suing to see which records his son was given access to, given that other officers who've used the database for personal reasons have been fired or reprimanded.[28]

Housing Authority

The Housing Authority misspent more than $5.8 million in federal money and did not adequately document another $4.7 million a federal audit revealed.[29] The head of agency has already resigned, after the audit revealed that funds were spent on clothes, flowers, and Christmas gifts for the board, about $2.3 in "unallowable" spending.[29] Additionally, the audit revealed $2.6 million in housing assistance to households that were inappropriately admitted into the program.

As a result of the audit, federal officials are investigating the DuPage Housing Authority. Investigators with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Inspector General are examining the housing authority's development of Myers Commons, a 91-unit senior housing project in Darien.[30]

List of School Districts in the County

Please note that under DuPage County law, any type of educational institution, including colleges and universities, is legally defined as a school.

Lobbying

Main article: Lobbying in DuPage County, Illinois

DuPage County has spent at least $1,819,999.96 since 2005 on government sector lobbying.

On Aug. 28, 2012 the county board voted 15-1 to spend $300,000 to keep three lobbying firms at the state and federal levels. Two of the firms — All-Circo, Inc. and V.A. Persico Consulting — will work with state lawmakers on the county’s behalf. The third firm, BGR Government Affairs LLC in Washington, D.C., will focus on federal initiatives.Board members who supported hiring the firms said DuPage’s team of lobbyists helped secure millions of dollars in state and federal funding for the county over the past year.[31]

Taxpayer-funded lobbying is the use of public funds by governments to influence other levels of government. Counties, for example, will pay lobbyists to influence the state or the federal government. This type of lobbying is often not disclosed to constituents. Counties hire lobbyists on a contractual basis, have lobbyists on staff, or join groups which promote or oppose legislation on their behalf. Lobbyists also help counties seeking specific projects or appropriations.


DuPage County's lobbying consists of 9 contracts with lobbyists, including Hadfield Consulting. It did not disclose membership in government sector lobbying associations.

For more on DuPage County lobbying, see the main article.

Lobbying since 2005
$ lobbying total $ Illinois $ federal government $ lobbying groups # lobbying contracts # lobbying groups
$1,819,999.96 $715,999.96 $1,104,000.00 - 9 -

Public employee salaries

Main article: DuPage County employee salaries

DuPage County salaries are salaries paid to elected officials and county employees.The DuPage County website includes a salary range for its employees.[32] The website also breaks down the duties of each employee.[33] The website does not include the salaries of elected officials. The website does not list a total number of county employees.


According to a Better Government Association report the five of the DuPage County Board’s 18 members missed roughly a third of their public board and committee sessions in the first nine months of 2011.[34] The BGA review of official meeting minutes also discovered:

  • J.R. McBride (R-Glen Ellyn) missed more meetings than anyone – 40 board and committee sessions – but he said he had a good reason for many of those absences. He was recovering from a July surgery to remove a brain tumor, his fourth such operation in 11 years.
  • Anthony Michelassi (D-Aurora) had 95 board and committee meetings he could have attended, but showed up for 59 of them, or 62 percent. That’s the lowest percentage on the board.
  • Five board members missed 24 or more meetings, or about a third of their totals. Aside from McBride and Michelassi, they were Rita Gonzalez (D-Addison), Michael McMahon (R-Hinsdale) and Patrick O’Shea (R-Lombard).
  • Five board members missed fewer than 10 board and committee meetings: Grant Eckhoff (R-Wheaton), Dirk Enger (D-Winfield), Robert Larsen (R-Warrenville), Jeff Redick (R-Elmhurst) and John Zediker (R-Naperville). Enger had the best attendance numbers on the board. He made 90 of 95 meetings, or roughly 95 percent.

Pensions

Main article: _(Sunshine_Review)|Illinois Public Pensions

The DuPage County website does not include information about the pension levels it offers to its employees and elected officials. As of December 2009, the county had a $180.7 million unfunded actuarial accrued pension liability.[35]

A report by the Illinois Better Government Association revealed several county board members draw dual public-sector salaries and stand to draw dual pensions, including County Board Chairman Dan Cronin who stands to draw a pension from his service in DuPage County as well as an Illinois legislator. DuPage County Board members who want to qualify for pensions are supposed to work at least 1,000 hours a year on county-related business. DuPage County Board members participate in what’s commonly known as ECO, or the "elected county official" pension program, part of IMRF. They become vested after eight years and after 20 years they’re eligible to receive 80 percent of their final year’s salary.[36]

In November 2010 a group of DuPage municipal leaders went to Springfield to air grievances over funding local pensions for police and fire departments. The municipal leaders said they could not afford the pension plans and were being forced to consider diminishing those departments because they do not have the funds to pay for police and fire employees and pay into the pension plans.[37]

Illinois is facing a crisis with its publicly funded pensions. In 2010 state government was responsible for over $130 billion in pension payments, however they only had $46 billion set aside, which leaves an unfunded liability of about $85 billion.[38] Finding a way to fund that $85 billion will be the focus of the 2011 general assembly. The Pew Center for the States reported that as of 2008, Illinois is one of the worst states at contributing to its pension systems. State lawmakers will consider selling $4 billion of bonds to pay the state's annual payment on the five pension programs it runs.[39]

At least one 2012 candidate for the DuPage County Board is making pension reform an issue. Rafael Rivadeneira a District 2 candidate, is calling for the elimination of pensions for county board members.[40]

In December 2011 DuPage County Board members opted to keep the option to enroll in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF), the state’s second-largest pension fund with $25 billion in assets. To qualify for the pension plan elected officials are expected to perform at least 1,000 hours of county-related work annually for eight years. However, the elected officials don’t have to prove they meet the requirement. Neither the IMRF nor the county requires that they document their time.Participating board members contribute 7.5 percent of their annual salary, or roughly $3,750 a year. But DuPage County taxpayers shoulder a significant load – in fiscal year 2011 the county paid IMRF $352,997 to cover board member-related pension obligations, according to a DuPage County Board spokeswoman.[41]

External links

References

  1. map
  2. DuPage County, Budgets, Accessed: November 27, 2012
  3. DuPage County, Staff Directory, Accessed: November 27, 2012
  4. DuPage County, Elected Officials, Accessed: November 27, 2012
  5. Meeting Schedule
  6. DuPage County, Meeting Minutes, Agendas, and Videos, Accessed: November 27, 2012
  7. DuPage County, Audits, Accessed: November 27, 2012
  8. DuPage County, Bids and RFPs, Accessed: November 27, 2012
  9. DuPage County, Approved Contracts, Accessed: November 27, 2012
  10. DuPage County, FOIA Officers, Accessed: November 27, 2012
  11. DuPage County, FOIA form and fee schedule, Accessed: November 27, 2012
  12. DuPage County, Tax Information, Accessed: November 27, 2012
  13. DuPage County, Pay Taxes, Accessed: November 27, 2012
  14. DuPage County, County Lobbying Disclosure, Accessed: November 27, 2012
  15. DuPage County, Zoning, Accessed: November 27, 2012
  16. DuPage County, Building Permit, Accessed: November 27, 2012
  17. [1]
  18. 'Fitch Rates DuPage County, Outlook Stable', CNBC, October 22, 2010
  19. Proposed Changes to County Ethics Policy
  20. DuPage County Ethics Ordinance and Related Information
  21. "New ethics reform proposal might be coming to Kane County," Daily Herald, February 26, 2010
  22. County Board Meetings, April 28, 2009
  23. Dupage County Auditor, Checkbook register
  24. Illinois Review, Auditor Bob Grogan Posts DuPage County Check Register, January 12, 2009
  25. My Suburban Life, County to post financial information online, Jan. 14, 2009
  26. 26.0 26.1 The Wheaton Sun, 'Show them everything', December 11, 2009
  27. Dupage County, AD HOC COMMITTEE TO EXPAND TRANSPARENCY AND ACCESSIBILITY IN COUNTY GOVERNMENT, Jan. 14, 2009
  28. Better Government Association, Sheriff Gives Teenage Son Access To Police Database, June 29, 2012
  29. 29.0 29.1 Daily Herald, Feds say DuPage Housing Authority misspent $5.8 million, March 26, 2011
  30. Chicago Tribune, DuPage County Housing Authority under federal investigation, Jan. 3, 2012
  31. Daily Herald, DuPage defends use of lobbying firms, Aug. 29, 2012
  32. 'Salary Range Report'. DuPage County, December 1, 2009
  33. DuPage County Auditor Report
  34. Better Government Association, Some DuPage Board Members Have Spotty Attendance, Nov. 28, 2011
  35. 'Business Wire', Fitch Rates DuPage County, October 22, 2010
  36. BGA, Double Dipping in DuPage County, Oct. 15. 2011
  37. 'The Doings', Local Officials Take Pension Plea to Springfield, November 18, 2010
  38. Illinois Issues, The Pension Chasm, November 15, 2010
  39. State House News, November 4, 2010
  40. Rafael Rivadeneira, Eliminate publicly funded pensions for DuPage County Board
  41. Better Government Association, Protecting a Perk in DuPage County, Dec. 19, 2011