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And there is hope, even for the Ethics Commission

Submitted by on Wednesday, 21 August 2013One Comment

If you have read my book MURDER IN MCHENRY, you know that there is a lot of bad stuff in there about some bad people. There is also signs of hope in the book too. Mainly the hope comes from the community of McHenry County. This is no different today.

Two weeks ago I wrote an article McHenry County Ethics Commission, Ethical or NOT!?!? You can click on the link to read it but I can run you to the end real quick on it, Ethics Commission, NOT ETHICAL!

A complaint came before the commission. The complaint was filed by Cal Skinner, former State and McHenry County politician and editor of the mchenrycountyblog.com. He filed the complaint against Andrew Zinke, the undersheriff for McHenry County. He is running for the position of McHenry County Sheriff in 2014.

Undersheriff Andrew Zinke giving Cal Skinner the finger at the 4th of July Parade in Crystal Lake, IL.

Undersheriff Andrew Zinke giving Cal Skinner the finger at the 4th of July Parade in Crystal Lake, IL.

Undersheriff Zinke sent an email from his work during working hours to current and former McHenry County Board members. He was trying to do some damage control over a photo that was taken at the Crystal Lake 4th of July parade. As you can see the photo is not exactly what you expect to see from a candidate running for sheriff. The photo was taken by Cal Skinner. Cal and Andy don’t care for each other much, hence the photo. The problem with the email was that it was political in nature. The email was charged with references to his candidacy, opponents and supporters of the election, campaign issues and race, run for office, and requesting guidance throughout the political process from the board members. Simply put a political email (the email can be found at the bottom of the article McHenry County Ethics Commission, Ethical or NOT!?!?)

The law exists to protect taxpayers from their money and/or government assets being used illegally by people seeking office. In reference to Governor Quinn, during his campaign he had to let go his Chief of Staff for sending three emails, and a Quinn aide was fined $1,000 for sending one email. This issue seems to be taken seriously ever where else, except for McHenry County.

Rebecca_Lee

Rebecca Lee Attorney for Undersheriff Andrew Zinke in his ethics complaint hearing

Mark Gummerson

Mark Gummerson Attorney for Undersheriff Andrew Zinke in his ethics complaint hearing

The complaint hearing was held July 25th, 2013. The hearing was conducted without any kind of protocol. Undersheriff Zinke had two lawyers, Mark Gummerson and Rebecca Lee. Mark Gummerson talked beyond time allowed, and asked for and received an extension to talk some more. He spent a portion of that time explaining to the board how to conduct itself. Rebecca Lee talked out of turn, trumpeted Gummerson, and attempted to hide the Sign Up Sheet so others could not speak. Gus Philpott found the Sign Up Sheet for everyone under Rebecca Lee’s binders. Philpott asked the board to ask Zinke’s lawyers if taxpayers are paying for Mr. Gummerson’s high priced legal representation, or if Zinke was paying for it. The board chose to ignore the question, so it was not answered. The board went into Executive Session (or a Secret meeting) to make their decision. They came out and 4-0 stating that the complaint was insufficient. They provided no explanation or how they arrived at the conclusion, they just voted publically. After the vote, Mr. Skinner was provided a document submitted by Mr. Gummerson to the board that was used in deciding the matter. Mr. Skinner did not get to review this document or address it because the hearing was over when he received it. Mr. Gummerson ended the hearing by threatening Mr. Skinner with a $5,000 lawsuit for filing a frivolous complaint, which if you look at the email, it is not frivolous. That is how they roll in the Ethics Commission.

You do not have to be a legal scholar to know that this whole thing was a sham, just common sense of what is right and wrong is needed to see that. This did not go unnoticed though. To my surprise, this did get to the McHenry County Board’s Management Services Committee. The Ethics Commission operates on the jurisdiction of this board. Board member Mike Walkup asked, “Do we have the authority to look at the Rules of the Ethics and Commission and change them?” And the answer was yes. Board members Mike Walkup and Donna Kurtz wanted to know if there were any records made of the proceedings and if they were recorded. Ms. Kurtz indicated that she thought the Ethics Commission did not look ethical. She added that the reactions to the reports of the hearings, “haven’t achieved a comfort level with the public.” In reference to the Executive Session (secret meeting) Paula Yensen, another McHenry County Board member, said “They need to create a process that it is open when it’s an ethical issue, it should be out there for people to hear the pros and cons.” She also added that there “should be a findings report.” John Labaj, who sat in the Executive Session of the Ethics Commission, was pointing out to the group that there was a difference in the way that a gift ban complaint is handled vice prohibited activities like the complaint heard by the Ethics Commission. Paula Yensesn interjected the comment by stating, “there was no hearing.” Mike Walkup added “And there was the disappearing sign-up sheet.” He also questioned whether the potential of a $5,000 fine should be left in the rules. He thought that it may inhibit First Amendment. This was in reference to mark Gummerson threatening to sue Cal Skinner for $5,000. There will be future meetings on the topic by the McHenry County Board’s Management Services Committee.

Donna Kurtz

Donna Kurtz, McHenry County Board member for District 2

Paula-Yensen

Paula Yensen, McHenry County Board member for District 5

Mike-Walkup-looking-left

Mike Walkup McHenry County Board member for District 3, and Commissioner, Crystal Lake Park District.

This is no way a grand slam victory, but it does demonstrate hope and that there are genuine people with the community’s best interest in mind working for us. We should show thanks and gratitude to Ms. Kurtz, Ms. Yensen, and Mr. Walkup. The Ethics Commission is a small entity of the many in McHenry County, and larger changes will require more capital. However, the reason that the McHenry County Board’s Management Services Committee visited the subject was because of the many reports of foul play. In other words they heard from the people that are watching. That is you and me. My website was not the only website reporting this, in fact it was the last, but we are making a difference and we are being heard; even by the reluctant. That is why it is important to keep on following as a way to stay engaged. When we are many, they have to listen. It puts us in the position to demand transparency and make change. We are closing in on 10,000 visits this month on the mchenrycounty1981.com website. We will gain more and more along the way into 2014. Our voice will be heard in the sheriff’s election and anything else that pops up along the way. There is a great need for awareness in McHenry County, but when citizens are made aware they want to do something about it. Transparency will only come when those that prefer Executive Sessions, know that we are watching. Let’s get others to watch too. We will create awareness with knowledge and we will be ready to engage with activity. There will be lots to do this winter to prepare for 2014, be ready!

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One Comment »

  • Duncan Mchenry says:

    Thank goodness for people like Donna Kurtz, Mike Walkup and Paula Yenson. The citizens of Mchenry County should applaud and recognize their efforts. When you see them make sure you go out of your way to Thank them. Can you imagine how different our government would be if we had more people like them taking a stand against Corruption? THANK YOU DONNA KURTZ, MIKE WALKUP AND PAULA YENSON for doing your jobs on behalf of everyone. But remember, it is everyones responsibility to take a stand. This is our Government, our Country, and the future of generations to come. Long after we are gone future generations will be affected by what we do today to create change. Through, community participation all of us can help to build a newer and better foundation for an honest and transparent government. All of us, set precedence from this point forward.

    As Paul has said “TRANSPARENCY IS THE ENEMA OF CORRUPTION” Oh sorry, let’s try that again. “TRANSPARENCY IS THE ENEMY OF CORRUPTION” Couldn’t resist…

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