DuPage County State’s Attorney preparing lawsuit against county clerk over bills

The ongoing feud between the DuPage County clerk’s office and the county board could soon find its way to a courtroom.

County board members Tuesday learned the state’s attorney’s office is preparing a civil complaint against the county clerk’s office. The state’s attorney’s office declined to elaborate more on the complaint or when it would be filed.

The pending lawsuit comes after an ongoing dispute over bills from the county clerk’s office that have not been paid.

The county clerk has argued that state law gives her the authority to run her office as she deems fit and that the county board cannot hold up bills for payment. The county board counters that the county clerk has not submitted proper documentation with the unpaid bills and that some of the contracts were not put out for competitive bidding.

The ongoing debate has cost the county roughly $150,000 to $200,000 in staff time over the past year, officials said.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” DuPage County Board member Jim Zay said during Tuesday’s board meeting.

“If we need to go to court, then we need go to court because what it seems like every email we get from the clerk’s office is threatening legal (action),” he added. “So, at some point, I guess we have to go there to get some kind of conclusion.”

The state’s attorney’s office would represent the county in the lawsuit. An attorney likely would have to be appointed to represent the county clerk’s office, according to the state’s attorney’s office.

Adam Johnson, chief deputy clerk for the county clerk’s office, declined to answer direct questions from the county board Tuesday.

Instead, he referred them to a May 7 memo that County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek sent to DuPage County Board Chairwoman Deborah Conroy asking that the auditor be removed from reviewing any bills the clerk’s office submits for payment. She noted that once her office has approved the bills, they should be paid.

Conroy on Tuesday reiterated she will not remove the auditor from the review process, noting that it was part of his duties outlined by state law.

As of last week, four invoices totaling $224,000 have not been submitted to the treasurer’s office for payment. The invoices include one totaling more than $180,000 to Truly Engaging for election materials the company printed for the clerk’s office.

The company’s CEO, Brenda Baird Watterson, attended Tuesday’s meeting to ask the county to pay the bill, which initially was submitted in February.

“I am asking you to put aside politics,” Watterson said. “I don’t know what is going on. I don’t know the truth about why we have not been paid … we’re a small business. But we are real people, and we are your constituents.

“I’m asking you to please pay your bills,” she said. “Please pay us and those that are waiting as well.”

According to a May 8 memo from Conroy to Kaczmarek, the Truly Engaging bill has not yet been paid because it was initially signed by an employee who was not authorized to approve it and because the invoice did not contain details, such as unit prices.

In an interview with the Daily Herald, Johnson on Tuesday said Truly Engaging also was used to provide election materials in 2023, and that invoice, containing similar information as the February 2024 invoice, was paid. The 2023 invoice also was signed by the same employee.

“It still comes down to once the clerk has approved an invoice for payment,” Johnson said. “It should be paid.”

Alicia Fabbre Daily Herald Media Group

Alicia Fabbre is a local journalist who contributes to the Daily Herald