DuPage County Board member accused of illegally moonlighting for state
The Edgar County Watchdogs reported in Illinois Leaks that a complaint was filed against DuPage County Board member Donald Puchalski with the Office of the Executive Inspector General on Sept. 29.
Rolly Waller, a candidate for the DuPage County Board District 1 seat, alleges that Puchalski is unlawfully holding two public positions while serving as a board member.
“When I became aware of my opponent holding three public offices, I believed this was another example of cronyism and triple-dipping,” Waller said in a statement. “I also saw this as a conflict of interest, as he, as a County Board member, votes on the funding of the Court Clerk’s Office and the Circuit Court, which oversees cases and determines payments to be made to the public guardian and administrator.”
Puchalski has held the District 1 seat on the county board since 2005. He was appointed by the Governor's Office to the county public guardian position in 2012 and the public administrator position in 2014.
Generally, the public guardian is a lawyer. The Public Guardian's Office manages the affairs of disabled adults, including investigating legal matters, ensuring the health and safety of the individuals, and handling end-of-life decisions. Whether the state or county is in charge of the disabled person depends on his or her net worth. Those with estates less than $25,000 are handled by the state guardian's office, while those with estates more than $25,000 are under the jurisdiction of the county Public Guardian's Office.
After Waller discovered Puchalski's additional roles with the county as a state appointee, he became concerned that this was a violation of the Illinois Public Officer Prohibited Activities Act (POPAA), which prohibits county board members from holding any other office.
“These state appointments of a sitting county board member may have never been made public had I not been a candidate,” Waller said.
The Edgar County Watchdogs reported on Oct. 10 that Puchalski sought the opinion of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan regarding the incompatibility of the state positions with his position on the DuPage County Board. In Puchalski's letter, he said he and his employees do not receive benefits or expenses from the county or state. The public guardian's time and expenses are detailed in a petition and submitted to the court for approval. If approved, the fees are paid from the ward's estate.
The watchdog group disagreed with Puchalski's interpretation of the POPAA. It pointed out the prohibitions in POPAA Section 1, which says a county board member cannot take another office unless he or she first resigns from the board position. This rule holds unless other sections of the POPAA or legislation specifically allows a certain position to be held, such as township highway commissioner or Emergency Telephone System board member. The public guardian and public administrator positions are not mentioned in the POPAA as an exception to Section 1.
In addition to Waller's and the Edgar County Watchdogs' concerns regarding the incompatibility of the positions, Puchalski failed to add the "public guardian" and "public administrator" to his mandatory conflict-of-interest form filed with the DuPage County Clerk on March 15. Doing business with local government and professional services rendered to local governments are required questions on the form. The answers on his form were "N/A."
On the Public Administrator/Public Guardian statement of economic interests filed with the Secretary of State's office, Puchalski did list his position as "DuPage County Board-County Commissioner" in 2012 and 2016, but not 2013-2015. Puchalski also did not list his law offices or professional services to any entity. Businesses and professional services with a value of less than $5,000 do not have to be reported on the form.
The penalty for filing a false or incomplete statement of economic interests form is a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in jail or both.
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421 N County Farm Rd
Wheaton, IL - 60187
421 N County Farm Rd
Wheaton, IL - 60187