Government Reform & DuPage County Forest Preserve
Since 2011, DuPage United has been working with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County to help ensure that DuPage County’s precious natural resources are managed with financial and operational transparency. Among the issues researched by DuPage United are the District’s large reserve fund, commissioners’ salaries and benefits, and departmental performance measurement policies.
Several seats on the Board of Commissioners were in play during the county elections of November 2012. Shortly before the election we invited the candidates for open positions on the Board to a DuPage United Delegate Assembly. Several candidates attended. Each was asked to pledge, if elected, to support adoption of a formal reserve fund policy; to support an ongoing internal audit process of the day-to-day operations; to support bringing the salaries and benefits of the commissioners in line with those of forest preserve districts in nearby counties; to implement performance measurement policies for all of the district’s departments; and to pass an ordinance for stricter procurement standards and prohibition of campaign contributions by those with current or pending business with the District.
Three new Commissioners were elected in the November 2012 election. Jack Hogan has been promoted from Director of Finance to CFO and Arnold Biondo was hired as CEO in January 2014. With key new people at the Forest Preserve, there are new practices in place. Primarily, with little open land in DuPage County, the Forest Preserve is in a transition period, shifting away from acquiring land to connecting people with the land.
As a result of this work by DuPage United, the Forest Preserve District will be writing a one-page reserve statement describing their reserve policies, and the statement will be placed on their web site. The District hired an outside firm to conduct an audit of the Finance Department, a company was brought in to assess the organizational structure, and operational assessments are currently being done in all areas of the organization. The district is revising and updating policies and procedures as a result of these assessments and audit. Salaries of Commissioners and the President have decreased, but we have been told they won’t mirror the salaries of other collar counties since other collar counties haven’t split their county board from their forest preserve board. Performance objectives and measurements will be in place for all departments by the end of 2014. DuPage Forest Preserve is in the process of making purchasing and procurement policies and procedures simpler and smarter. The Forest Preserve will make purchasing decisions through consortiums that vet vendors for specific products rather than buying through complicated bid processes.
DuPage United is pleased with the improvements the Commissioners and staff of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County are making. We will continue to monitor their progress with DuPage United’s recommendations.