EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a press release from Madison County Treasurer Kurt Prenzler.
EDWARDSVILLE — Madison County is once again without an ethics adviser and Treasurer Kurt Prenzler wonders if his questioning a conflict of interest prompted the resignation.
“It’s difficult to get an opinion when the person who needs to answer it keeps resigning,” Prenzler said.
During the past several months, Prenzler requested an opinion from the ethics adviser about the county’s purchasing process.
In February, Prenzler sent a letter to Leo Konzen asking for an opinion concerning the county purchasing director, who also serves as the treasurer for the County Board chairman’s political committee. The purchasing director has the discretion to award millions of dollars per year in county contracts to vendors.
“The County Board chairman shouldn’t be accepting donations from vendors,” Prenzler said. “The treasurer of his campaign fund shouldn’t be given the task of being in charge of who gets county contracts. That’s the conflict.”
Konzen notified Prenzler he resigned on Dec. 16. The chairman appointed retired Madison County Judge Dean Sweet to fill the position on March 16.
Soon after, Prenzler sent Sweet a letter posing the same question.
“I found out this week Mr. Sweet resigned,” Prenzler said. “My letter and phone messages to him went unanswered.”
In other counties there are boards of ethics, which is recommended “best practice” by the Illinois attorney general model ethics ordinance.
“DuPage, DeKalb and McHenry are some counties that have ethics boards,” Prenzler said. “The purpose is to meet as a hearing body to consider complaints regarding unethical conduct.”
Ethics boards are charged with the obligation to investigate complaints, conduct hearings and deliberations on allegations, and to adjudicate complaints or refer complaints to the state’s attorney’s office.
“It’s not just one person, but rather a team who oversees ethical complaints,” Prenzler said. “There is no ethics board in Madison County and there should be.”