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State's attorney says DuPage election official didn't violate law
By Robert Sanchez | Daily Herald Staff

Robert Saar

 

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Published: 7/30/2009 12:01 AM

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The executive director of the DuPage County Election Commission didn't violate state law when he received royalties from a vendor for software he helped create.

But the state's attorney's office has advised Robert Saar that he should have disclosed his financial ties to Robis Elections, a Wheaton-based company that does work for the commission.

"In my opinion, he should have listed this income," DuPage State's Attorney Joe Birkett said Wednesday. "But the evidence doesn't rise to the level of a criminal charge."

In January, DuPage County Board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom asked Birkett's office to look into the business relationship between Saar and Robis after it was announced Saar was giving up financial rights to election software he helped develop.

Before that time, Saar didn't formally disclose he was the patent-holder of the software and was receiving about $10,000 a year from sales of the product.

Birkett said the investigation determined Saar misunderstood "a poorly worded statute."

"There was no indication at all that he was aware of the fact that he should have listed this income," Birkett said. "It's probably a mistake that's made thousands of times a year by city, county and state employees."

Saar didn't return a telephone message Wednesday.

Instead, election commission spokesman Dan Curry responded by saying, "Bob Saar is one of the most respected election professionals in the country and he's not surprised that the allegation proved to be baseless"

Before the state's attorney started looking into the issue, Saar received a legal opinion from commission attorney Patrick Bond saying the relationship with Robis was aboveboard. Saar never received payments for the product sold in DuPage or anywhere else in Illinois, according to Curry.

Commission Chairman Rick Carney said Saar's decision to give up financial rights to the election software was the right thing to do. He said Saar's financial ties to Robis were "embarrassing" for the commission.

"It doesn't look good," Carney said. "It might be legal, but it doesn't look good. It's slimy. It's a slimy deal."

Now with the commission in the process of revising its ethics rules, Carney said steps will be taken to prevent similar business relationships between commission staff and vendors in the future.

"I am going to ask point-blank if this kind of activity is acceptable under our (proposed) ethics ordinance," he said. "If it is, then I'm going to say it can't happen. In my mind, it's not going to be allowed."