BLOOMINGTON — The McLean County Board appointed the first people to ever serve on its ethics commission last week, nearly eight years after they created the state-mandated commission.
Normal resident Daniel Liechty, along with Bloomington residents Herman Brandau and Lane Hansen, were each appointed to serve a two-year term on the ethics commission that expires May 31, 2014, during a McLean County Board meeting on May 15.
Liechty, 1007 Norwood Court, Normal, is a professor of social work at Illinois State University, where he has served as a member and chairman of the ethics panels.
Brandau, 2216 Woodfield Road, Bloomington, was an attorney at State Farm from 1970 to 2003 and currently serves as a consultant. In addition to his law degree, he has a bachelor’s degree in political science.
Hansen, 116 S. Devonshire Drive, Bloomington, has a bachelor’s degree in political science and is a problem analyst for State Farm.
The ethics commission is a hearing panel that will listen to complaints involving potential violations of the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act that went into effect on December 9, 2003.
“If a formal ethics complaint is filed with either my office, the county board’s office or the State’s Attorney’s Office in McLean County relating to the Illinois Gift Ban Act or relating to the rules of the McLean County Board or McLean County ordinances having to do with ethics, then this commission would meet for the sole purpose of deciding whether or not the complaint was justified and should be referred to the State’s Attorney’s Office for an official investigation,” said McLean County Board Chairman Matt Sorensen. “It’s really more of a grand jury than anything else.”
The SOEEA requires every local government in the State of Illinois to adapt an Officials and Employees Ethics ordinance that would create an ethics commission.
“It’s created by state law,” said Sorensen. “Every local government is supposed to have one, so every school board is supposed to have one, every municipality is supposed to have one, every county is supposed to have one. I don’t know if everyone does have one. Everyone is supposed to have one.”
The McLean County Board approved its Officials and Employees Ethics ordinance during a meeting on May 18, 2004. It took them nearly eight years to appoint people to the ethics commission.
Former McLean County Board Chairman Mike Sweeney was unable to find people who were willing and qualified to serve on the ethics commission.
“The prior county board chairman had tried to find people to serve on it four years ago and basically couldn’t come up with the people to serve on it,” said Sorensen. “So about 4-5 months ago the State’s Attorney suggested that we ought to take another try and try to find some people to serve on this board. So we did.”
Sorensen presented a motion to nominate McLean County Republican Party Chairman John Parrott, McLean County Democratic Party Chairman John Penn and himself to the ethics commission, during a McLean County Board meeting on March 20. However, the board voted 13 to 6 against the nominations. Several board members were uncomfortable selecting party leaders for an ethics commission.
“It was rejected by the board and so it became pretty public,” said Sorensen. “There were stories in the newspaper about it, including how to apply to apply for the position. There were stories on the local radio stations.
“In the end, we had five applicants that turned names in and applications in. It had to be split from a party affiliation prospective, so in the end I didn’t really have a lot of choices. I ended up with the three that met the legal requirement.”
According to Sorensen, it is likely that the ethics commission will never have to meet.
“We’ve never had a complaint filed since the Illinois Gift Ban Act went into place that would have caused this commission to meet,” said Sorensen. “There were some things going on during the State’s Attorney’s race a few months ago between some of the candidates and things like that that could have potentially become a filed complaint that would have caused this commission to meet. But in the end, nobody filed a complaint, so the commission wouldn’t have had to meet anyway. My hope is that this group would never have to meet.”