Seekers of good government need role models to look up to in contrast to the recurring examples of what not to do. Residents of the 4th and 11th districts of the county board are blessed to have Anthony Cvek and John Gudmunson, respectively, as their representatives.
Cvek is a rookie county board member who appears to champion the type of government he campaigned for. Gudmunson has proven to be a steady beacon for sunlight and good government.
Cvek and Gudmunson went against the grain of the board and their political party by voting against the appointment of Riley Oncken to fill the 3rd district seat vacated by the resignation of Ken Andersen. Nothing against Oncken, he is well qualified to serve on the board, but it’s a matter of ethics and principles.
In the November 2012 general election Oncken finished third in a top two vote getters win race. Voters soundly rejected his bid for re-election. Basic principles of good government include respect for the voters’ decision. Cvek and Gudmunson had more respect for the voters than the rest of the board who ignored the results of the most recent election:
- Mark Pietrowski Jr. (DEM) 1789 total votes – 39.31%
- Kenneth W. Andersen (REP) 1658 total votes – 36.43%
- Riley N. Oncken (REP) 1104 24.26 total votes – 24.26%
Peculiar was the vote of Mark Pietrowski. Surely, at least his constituents must have thought, he would vote against the Oncken appointment. As the top vote-getter for District 3 Pietrowski canvassed door to door. He heard the dissatisfaction with voters for the landfill expansion Oncken championed. Many in District 3 especially, home of the landfill, were frustrated that the pollution control board and appellate courts both opined that if voters didn’t like their county board member’s action on the landfill they could vote them out.
But the rules for when a sitting county board member resigns are clear. A vacant seat on the board must be filled by a member of the same political party that held it prior to the vacancy. Ken Andersen (R) resigned in February after losing the board chairmanship to fellow Republican Jeff Metzger.
The local GOP chair, Steve Kuhn, sat in on a caucus meeting of four of the eight precinct committeemen. They would choose between Riley Oncken and Stephen Ward who is a trustee on the Cortland Township board. Each of the four precinct committeeman’s vote was weighted by the number of Republican votes cast in the 2012 primary election. Kuhn, who could have voted for the open precincts not represented at the meeting apparently wanted to avoid any question of ethics chose to abstain.
The four voting committeemen (with weighted numbers) were Riley Oncken (98), Russ Josh (143), Tim Bagby (179) and Ken Andersen (157). Bagby is an appointed precinct committeeman. Anthony Cvek pointed out that Bagby should not have voted. Those who place importance on ethics would abstain from voting for themselves. Instead Oncken, Bagby and Josh voted for Oncken. Andersen voted for Ward.
When Andersen was up for the county board chair similar rules applied. The Republicans on the board nominated him. But Jeff Metzger (R) and the Democrats teamed together to reject the GOP nomination and instead elected Metzger as the chairman. Metzger promised that at least six of the county’s leading Republicans would step forward to let the public know why he and not the county board GOP members formal nominee, Ken Andersen, should be the chairman. We’re still waiting for that press conference.
Pietrowski came under fire for not supporting fellow District 3 representative Andersen for the chairman position. In a Facebook conversation, Pietrowski wrote: “The choice was an ultra conservative or a moderate that has a record of working with both sides.”
Evidently the same rules or ethics don’t apply for the Democrats with Andersen’s replacement. Despite Cvek’s and Gudmunson’s objections on the lack of ethics in the caucus vote and the disrespect selecting Oncken would show the voters of District 3 county board members voted 20-2 to appoint caucused nominee.
In a letter to the board, Cvek outlined other concerns about Oncken’s nomination. Among those concerns was a January 2013 A-1 report of a $1,000 campaign contribution to Oncken from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150. It was the largest single contribution his election committee ever received since forming in 2008.
The county board will likely vote on a new contract with IUOE Local 150 in the coming months. Will Oncken once again vote for himself? He has a pattern of doing so.
After losing his bid for re-election Oncken changed his stance on a budget request for a funding increase of $73,000 to add a second attorney for the public defender’s office. He said his previous vote against the measure was based on “saving himself politically.”
That was the theme for his recorded March 18, 2009 vote against the Host Fee Agreement on the landfill expansion. Then county board member Steve Walt, who voted in favor of the Host Fee Agreement, wrote Oncken an email discovered through the FOIA regarding the criticism heard that night from the audience. Oncken replied: “My vote was to appease my constituents and I knew it wouldn’t matter in the end, so I was not forced to make a truly difficult decision. I did talk to [Waste Management] afterward to explain my concerns and my vote […]”
Perhaps the new geniuses pulling strings at the DeKalb County Democrats were thinking ahead when their county board members (and officers) voted to appoint Oncken. Surely any warm bodied candidate in a donkey suit will beat him in the next election. If so, shame on them for prioritizing loyalty to their party over that of good government.
As for the local GOP? What else can you do to embarrass yourself?
Anthony Cvek and John Gudmunson are the silver lining in the dark dreary clouds surrounding the DeKalb County Board. They are examples of how to do things right.
They should be emulated.
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