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Taking campaign money from vendors

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A report in Sunday's Sun revealed how several elected DuPage County officials have accepted campaign donations from Aramark, a company that has provided food service to the jail for years. Aramark is trying to keep the jail food contract, but has repeatedly failed to meet bid requirements. Yet county officials are giving Aramark chance after chance after chance to get the contract by changing the bid rules, saying it would save taxpayers money if Aramark gets the contract. Do you see anything wrong with this?

As an editorial in Tuesday's Sun explains, there's no indication of quid pro quo, that Aramark is getting something in return for cash it's donated to county board members, the sheriff and the state's attorney. But as the editorial says, good government not only steers clear of impropriety, it avoids the appearance of impropriety.

Is this jail food contract merely one small local example of what's wrong with Springfield and Washington, when contractors and vendors and lobbyists and special interests pour money into campaign funds, then their names show up as those doing business with the local, state or federal government? Does this seem wrong to you? Or do you accept that this is just the way things get done? It's a free country, right? If a vendor wants to donate to a particular candidate or cause, who are we to tell them they can't?

How do you see it?

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I have worked with Aramark employees in many, many locations around the country. It was never about food service and I was actually hired to evaluate certain aspects of their contract performance. Aramark did not hire me to do the evaluation either.

I have to say that in all my dealings with Aramark I have found their employees to be high caliber, highly qualified, and with great personal and work ethics. I have never seen a single instance of lying, cheating, or stealing.

At the same time I must honestly state that I never had any business dealings with A'viands so I have no reference point or way to compare their organization or how they do business.

Every year DuPage County signs a ton of contracts as large as if not larger than this one food service contract. If there is this much problem with the specification and bidding on one contract, god help us all with the potential for mismanagement that exists with all of the other contracts.

As a taxpayer and a long-term resident of Naperville I have seen way, way more than just one instance of questionable and shady dealings by Shillerstrom. As a result I no longer have any confidence in Shillerstron as an elected official or in his ability to lead our county government. His personal choices and actions for the last several years have slowly convinced me that he really is a Democrat who calls himself a Republican only so he will be elected here in mostly Republican DuPage County. It is way past time for Shillerstrom to go. And the sooner he is gone the better off DuPage County will be. And please don't insult us by naming something after him unless it is the pig pen at Kline Creek Farm.

Thankfully we do have some other people like Jim Healy who actually comprehend and understand the issues and who are willing to find solutions that are in the best interest of the citizens and taxpayers of DuPage County.

These comments are what happens when people get only part of the story and then jump to conclusions. The real story here is not about Aramark's political clout (after all, Aramark donates hundreds of dollars each year -- not thousands or tens of thousands -- to DuPage County officials). Instead, the real story is that DuPage County seems to be going out of its way to stick it to Aramark. Aramark keeps submitting the lowest bids, and then the County finds an excuse to strike Aramark's bid and tries to award the contract to A'viands (for a higher price). Last year, Aramark had to sue DuPage County in federal court to prevent such an award to A'viands. Does that sound like a company with political clout? Somehow, no one has mentioned that the current A'viands contract is a no bid contract that was awarded by Chairman Schillerstrom. Let me get this straight: Aramark is supposed to be the company with the clout, but the County awards a no bid contract to A'viands. Doesn't make sense, does it? Maybe you guys should learn the rest of the story.

It is clear: Any and all public officials should be prohibited by an Ethics code from taking ANY money or in-kind services from a vendor.

I continue to be suprised that the Sun does NOT cover the 203 school board and all of the contributions they have received from the Teachers' Union, both directly and through the various cut-out groups created to surreptiously funnel funds into selected campaigns and programs.

This is an outrage that all citizens should react against regardless of political affilition!

Bob Brandt,

I don't know you and need to learn more about your positions. I don't think you represent my district... I think that might be Jim Healy.

Anyway, good luck with ethic reform. It is needed and long overdue.

A good case of investigative reporting would take a look at all of the corporate campaign contributions and then sort them out to see if the corporations had contracts or not. Unless you are 12 years old it is pretty easy to figure out why a profit making corporation with a government contract is making a campaign contribution. Better question is if a corporation does not have a contract then why are they making campaign contributions? Greasing the wheels for the future? Payback from the past? Trying to get something changed, passed, approved...or why?

Regardless, the whole process stinks and does nothing to represent the best interests of the taxpayers who actually vote for those who are elected. Quite frankly we would be better off without all of the corporate campaign contributions and professional lobbyist.

While we are digging into ethics reform and campaign contributions lets dig into how these "war chests" are used. Especially when one candidate gives or loans money to another candidate... Schillerstrom is a great local example of this. Even better is how the accumulated campaign contributions are used when an elected official looses an election, retires, resigns, OR EVEN GETS THROWN IN JAIL!!!

RJK, you have no basis for your comments. Do some research on the net, or spend some time in the industry. This vendor (ARAMARK) has a long history of doing this very thing all over the country. Unfortunately for legit companies like Aviands and others it disgusting that they get away with it. ARA should be fired and the county should move on. But of course that will never happen as long as these vendors continue to line the officials pockets. Tell me, what benefit does a Philly based company get by dumping money into the local politicians pockets???? Seems strange does it not? Doubt they sat around their board room and just randomly decided to donate a few bucks to DupPage County.

"Pay-To-Play" politics exists in all levels of government - DuPage County is no exception. County Board Robert Schillerstrom is one of the largest benefactors of campaign contributions from county vendors. I will soon be proposing an ethics reform package to help dry up this money and drive "pay-to-play" out of DuPage. Stay tuned.

Robert "Bob" Brandt
Candidate for DuPage County Board - District 3

Your article was yellow journalism at its worst. It was an attempt to hint at wrongdoing when none exists. The only thing wrong with the situation is your liberal bias against wanting to save taxpayers money. Suppose the contract ends up being awarded to Aramark, what then? Will you falsely accuse the elected officials of being on the take again? I wouldn't expect you to write anything thanking them for doing their jobs by reducing costs.

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