Two Cook County commissioners who represent parts of the south suburbs were among the harshest critics of a measure that changes the way in which the commissioners get reimbursed for their expenses.
Yet commissioners Joan Patricia Murphy and Deborah Sims on Tuesday wound up voting in favor of the measure, which ultimately passed the Cook County Board without opposition.
The measure in question was sponsored by Commissioner Jeff Tobolski, D-McCook, who said he was motivated by reports of federal government officials who spent nearly $1 million to attend conferences in Las Vegas.
His measure impacts the 17 members of the Cook County Board. Instead of the current practice of having a contingency fund of up to $15,000 per person that commissioners can draw from, now they will have to pay such expenses up front, then seek reimbursement from the county after submitting a detailed report of what they spent money on.
Under the current way, county commissioners had to submit a report of how they used money from the contingency fund, and could be asked to repay any expenses that were later determined to be invalid.
MaryNic Foster, the county Ethics Board's executive director, said she views the change as "one for the positive," because it often was difficult to get officials to pay back money they had already spent.
"We don't look at it as an ‘I gotcha.' It's working with our colleagues," she said.
Murphy, whose south suburban district includes much of the area along the Ilinois/Indiana border south of Lansing, and Sims, whose Far South Side Chicago district dips into suburbs such as Riverdale and Harvey, both were less impressed with the new measure.
Murphy said she believes County Board members already were accounting for how they were spending money on items such as travel, adding she believes the changes will merely create more paperwork that will need to be processed.
"I think it's going to cost us more money to do this," she said, adding that she wants a study done toward the end of summer to determine if bureaucratic expenses have increased due to the measure.
More upset was Sims, who said she sees this as a measure that will sound positive to good government-type activists, but will change little.
"I take offense to the way some people think that this change is happening because there were crooked types working here," she said, adding later about the measure, "We have got to stop acquiescing to the press, we're not in their business."
The new measure becomes effective June 1.
In other business, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and County Assessor Joe Berrios pushed for a resolution that asks the Illinois state Senate to go after property owners who wrongly collect tax exemptions. Such a bill is pending in the General Assembly this spring, and Preckwinkle said, "residents have to bear the financial burden when their neighbors wrongfully take property tax exemptions. This legislation is about leveling the playing field."
The County Board also gave its approval to a resolution by Murphy that honored recipients of the Silver Star while serving in the military. Tuesday was also designated as Silver Star Service Banner Day in Cook County.