Audit reveals shortcomings that led to DuPage County cannabis tax snafu

DuPage County officials say they won’t risk losing millions in revenue again and will ensure proper paperwork is filed with the state – even if it means doing it themselves.

The pledge came as county board members reviewed an internal audit outlining how a 2019 county ordinance establishing a 3% sales tax on all sales of recreational cannabis sales in municipal parts of the county was not initially filed with the Illinois Department of Revenue.

The ordinance, which would have taken effect in July 2020, directed the county clerk to file the paperwork with the state. But it wasn’t until July 2021 that county officials realized the state never received the ordinance and the county had missed out on 18 months of revenue.

“If there’s one thing we can learn from this ... is that we can’t rely on the clerk to do any of this,” DuPage County Board member Sam Tornatore said, echoing other board members’ concerns.

County Auditor Bill White’s report noted there was no documentation to show whether or not the county clerk’s office mailed the cannabis tax ordinance to place it on file with the state department of revenue.

While such documentation would not typically exist, White identified that as a shortcoming in the clerk’s office and suggested policies be put in place to document when ordinances are filed with other agencies.

His report also suggests the county board, department heads and other elected officials develop procedures that would give the clerk’s office clear direction on what to do when an ordinance or resolution needs to be forwarded to another entity or individual. Those procedures should include the name of the address of the person or agency the ordinance is being sent to, a contact person’s information and what method, such as fax or certified mail, should be used to send the ordinance.

DuPage County Chief Administrative Officer Nick Kottmeyer said various procedures were adopted after learning of the cannabis tax snafu. He added county board staff will follow up to ensure ordinances involving revenue streams are filed with the proper agencies through certified mail.

“We are not going to risk another single point of failure,” Kottmeyer said.

Though White’s report included recommendations and findings, county board members said the report was too “narrow” and took too long to complete.

“When we ask for transparency and when we ask for accountability, we deserve it. The people of DuPage County deserve it,” said DuPage County Board member Lynn LaPlante, who has repeatedly asked for the audit. “I’m really not happy that it took this long to get here.”

DuPage County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek rebuffed concerns about her office’s operations, saying it sends out “hundreds” of resolutions and ordinances annually without issue. She has maintained it is not her office’s responsibility to follow up to ensure the proper agencies received the ordinance.

“It’s not our job to implement them [ordinances],” she said, adding that responsibility lies with the department that issued the ordinance or resolution. “It’s their responsibility to follow through and make sure that project gets done.”

Alicia Fabbre Daily Herald Media Group

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