Jan. 16 was an extremely difficult, even sad, day for the Lake County Democratic Party. Our former chairman and former chief law enforcement officer of Lake County, John Buncich, was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for federal crimes committed, which, in my opinion, fall under the umbrella of "violations of the public trust."
Once again, the Lake County Democratic Party suffers a black eye and is left trying to explain why a high-ranking public official, both in the party and in elective office, is found guilty of corrupt practices.
As chairman of the Lake County Democratic Party, I want to take this opportunity to speak on behalf of all those decent, good and honest members of our party when I say that it is disappointing, frustrating and always brings you to the brink of saying, “I’m done. I’ve had it. There’s nothing more I can do.”
As convenient and tempting as that may seem, to give in simply confirms the old adage: “All that it takes for evil men to succeed is for good men to do nothing.”
So that’s not the answer. That being the case, where does our party go from here, and how can we address, confront and eradicate the culture of corruption we continue to experience?
After some soul searching, the following is my answer: First, recognize the vast majority of the precinct and vice precinct committee members in our organization, elected officials and others, are honest and hardworking people.
They strongly believe in good, fair and honest government and decry the actions of a few.
Second, in reading about the former sheriff’s federal bribery trial, and in motions filed subsequent to the trial, I continually saw the phrases, “Everybody does it.” “Business as usual.”
My response to that is simple: If there was such a thing as "business as usual," there is no more.
Those days are over.
That mantra needs to be stated on every occasion our leadership has the opportunity to do so — at precinct organization meetings, dinners and rallies and wherever good Democrats gather together and will listen.
There is no wiggle room in that position, no varying from that thought. The Lake County Democratic Party will move forward to restore the dignity and pride in the party by simply taking that position each and every day.
Third, strong support for the creation of a true Human Resources Department in Lake County government — one that is given the responsibility for creating and enforcing legitimate, independent and objective hiring practices in the county designed to remove partisanship and patronage from the equation — is essential.
This is a cornerstone to creating best practices in the county by hiring qualified individuals, who are not beholden to elected officials or department heads. It is time to employ qualified Lake County residents for responsible positions in government — not relatives from the West Coast.
Fourth, and finally, proactively engaging in registering voters and then, in May and November, getting out the vote should be a priority.
The larger the number of voters, and more diverse their characteristics, the less likely it is that elected officials can simply rely on a small base of voters to keep them in office. This can go a long way to reducing or eliminating undue influence of a small minority.
I offer this not as a quick fix to the issue of public corruption, but rather as an initial blueprint to address, and ultimately eliminate, both the perception and reality of political corruption in our community.