McHenry County’s rewritten ethics ordinance advances

McHenry County’s rewritten ethics ordinance could go before the County Board by April, board Chairman Jack Franks said in a statement.

The new ordinance would allow municipalities in McHenry County to opt in and adopt the ordinance, too, which would allow those governments to use the county-established Ethics Commission to hear and make judgments on complaints.

Most local regulations require a mayor or village president to appoint an ethics adviser and a three-person ethics commission to review complaints. The model ordinance set forth by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office does not explicitly require an adviser and commission, but it’s “strongly recommended” that municipalities put them in place, according to state documents.

Most McHenry County municipalities have not established ethics commissions, records show. After McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett said he mistakenly sent a political email from his city account in February, he said the city would consider using the county’s Ethics Commission.

New provisions in the ordinance build on existing state-mandated bans on things such as engaging in prohibited political activity and accepting gifts from prohibited sources, Franks said.

“While I believe most county officials act with unimpeachable integrity, this ordinance lets the people we represent know how seriously we take upholding the public trust,” Franks said in a statement. “I want to thank [McHenry County State’s Attorney] Patrick Kenneally and county staff for helping craft an ethics ordinance that I believe will become the gold standard for governments throughout Illinois.”

The new ordinance expands punishable ethical offenses above state-mandated infractions to include sexual harassment, nepotism, conflicts of interest and making or discussing favorable decisions for a business entity in exchange for future employment, Franks said.

“The prior county ethics ordinance was lacking in both scope and clarity,” he said. “We are pleased to have worked with the chairman and county administration in making important substantive and procedural reforms to the ethics ordinance for consideration by the County Board.”