Local Government

County begins developing code of conduct for appointees

WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Board is wasting no time developing a code of conduct for its appointees to boards and commissions to follow.

Its Management Services Committee on Monday directed county staff to develop a proposed set of guidelines that appointees have to honor, one week after Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law allowing the collar counties to do so. The new law also gives county boards a mechanism by which to remove violators.

While the law is based off of a code of conduct that the Lake County Board developed for its appointees – which inspired the state law – it will be tailor-made for McHenry County, committee Chairwoman Paula Yensen, D-Lake in the Hills, said.

"We're going to be reviewing a template of the code of ethics that's really related to McHenry County," Yensen said.

Senate Bill 3552 gives counties with more than 300,000 people except for Cook County to adopt standards for accountability, fiscal responsibility, transparency, efficiency and ethics. An appointee can be removed for violating the standards, after getting a hearing, with a two-thirds vote of the County Board, which in McHenry County is 16 of 24 members.

The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, applies only to appointees to boards and commissions, and cannot be used to remove an elected County Board member.

County boards currently have almost no recourse by which to remove an appointee except to wait until his or her term expires and appoint someone else. This came to a head in recent years following back-to-back scandals at Metra, the suburban commuter rail agency. Collar-county board chairmen who asked their representatives on the Metra Board to resign in the wake of the 2010 scandal surrounding former Metra CEO Phil Pagano found that that while they had the power to appoint them, they had no legal authority to remove them.

McHenry County government appoints about 250 people to at least 35 boards and commissions. A number of the boards to which the County Board appoints – such as the Conservation District, the Mental Health Board and the Board of Health – supervise large staffs and are responsible for multi-million-dollar budgets.

On the Net

You can read the text of Senate Bill 3552 at www.ilga.gov.

You can read a copy of Lake County's standards of conduct for appointees at http://shawurl.com/1b8r.

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