DuPage County State’s Attorney takes first step towards legal action against clerk’s office

In a memo to DuPage County Board Chair Deborah Conroy on May 7, DuPage County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek threatened to instruct the State’s Attorney to commence legal action if invoices approved by her office were not submitted and approved by the County Treasurer.

One week later, the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office is in the process of drafting a civil complaint against the clerk’s office, according to State’s Attorney Communications Manager Paul Darrah.

Kaczmarek came under scrutiny of the county board last month after a letter, drafted by board member James Zay, District 6, urged Conroy to arrange an inquiry into $265,000 in no-bid contracts approved by the clerk’s office.

“We are concerned that the clerk’s office is not following Illinois state law and continues to not listen to or take the legal advice of our state’s attorney office,” the letter said. “This issue of the clerk not working with the county has come to a tipping point and now we are talking about hundreds of thousands of ‘taxpayers money’ that have no oversight or transparency.”

Kaczmarek refused the board call to answer questions about her office’s conduct, resulting in confusion and frustration within the county government.

Caught in the middle are the vendors contracted by the clerk’s office, whose services cannot be paid without a signature from Kaczmarek and Adam Johnson, the chief deputy county clerk.

Conroy, in a memo sent to Kaczmarek on May 8, cited four invoices totaling nearly $224,000 that could not be paid without action from the clerk’s office, including $189,949 to Truly Engaging, a printing company contracted to supply mailing material related to the ​​March 19 primary election.

“We faithfully did the work as soon as we received the signed purchase order from DuPage County,” Truly Engaging CEO Brenda Baird-Watterson said during the County Board meeting this Tuesday. “Whoever has the legal authority… please pay your bills, pay us, and pay those that are waiting as well.”

To pay for Truly Engaging’s contract, the clerk and deputy clerk need to sign the invoice and provide a description of services provided, Conroy said in an interview following Tuesday’s board meeting.

“This Board should not be in a situation where bills are not being paid, and this falls directly on [the clerk’s office], regardless of the procurement situation,” Conroy said. “These are signatures and a process that was set up by the clerk so this needs to be done.”

Kaczmarek, in her letter to Conroy, attached an informal opinion from last April, by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, in which he affirms county clerks are granted “exclusive control over the internal operations of their offices,” and their expenses may not be limited by their county’s board.

“DuPage County has ignored the legal guidance of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office for years, and the County’s improper practices must end,” Kaczmarek said in the letter. “It is my hope that we can finally move past these disputes, pay vendors for services rendered, and focus on performing our respective statutory duties for the residents of DuPage County.”

There has been no further contact between the clerk’s office and members of the county board since May 8, Conroy said. Neither Conroy nor the State’s Attorney’s office could not provide details on when the civil action will be filed.

“We are moving forward with the next steps because we have no choice,” Conroy said.