By Mark Wachtler
January 14, 2015. Addison, IL. (ONN) It’s been a bad year for the corruption-plagued College of DuPage Board of Trustees. Current Board members have been exposed by taxpayer watchdogs for stuffing their pockets with millions of dollars in school money. They’ve been held up by national news outlets as some of the most corrupt public officials in America. They had a multi-million-dollar state grant revoked. And now, a corruption-busting libertarian is running for a seat on the College of DuPage Board. Meet Claire Ball - accountant, reformer, and candidate for College of DuPage Board of Trustees.
Claire Ball, reform candidate for College of DuPage Board of Trustees. Image courtesy of ClaireBallForIllinois.com.
Mark Wachtler (Illinois Herald): First, thank you for taking the time to talk to us and tell Illinois Herald readers about your campaign Claire. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Claire Ball (candidate): Thank you Mark, I appreciate the chance to discuss what should be a very exciting challenge. I’m a 32-year-old accountant and homeowner living in Addison. I have many passions and am happy to say that accounting is among them. I received my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Accounting and Finance and plan to have my CPA (Certified Public Accountant) certification in 2015, and my CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner) certification after that. I enjoy yoga, writing fiction, shooting, watching classic movies, and thrift store browsing. My husband and I are members of the Silent Film Society of Chicago. I also love to be outside hiking, biking, camping or road-tripping, and am always up for an adventure. I am married and we’re the proud servants of two cats. I’ve been with my husband Brian for over 12 years. He’s my campaign manager, and we support each other in everything we do. And the cats walk all over us.
Illinois Herald: As staunch independents here at the Illinois Herald, most of the candidates we support are first-time citizen-candidates. Is this the first elective office you've ever run for?
Claire Ball: Yes it is. While I have gotten more interested in politics over the last few years, nothing has sparked me to run for anything until I read about, and looked into, what is going on at the College of DuPage.
Illinois Herald: Why are you running for one of the College of DuPage Board of Trustee seats?
Claire Ball: When I first heard about the financial shenanigans going on at the College of DuPage I was appalled, just as any honest hardworking taxpayer would be. The more I heard about the attitude and actions of most of the current board members, from the ridiculous censure of Kathy Hamilton to Trustee Diane McGuire’s Nazi comments, the more I wanted to do something about it. When the Chair of the Board of Trustees refuses to revise the college’s policies on transparency and spending in light of the millions of dollars being fraudulently paid out, it is time to get people on the Board who will take action. I don’t want COD to go down the road of so many of our state institutions with an ever-growing history of fraud, misappropriation and corruption.
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Illinois Herald: What are your thoughts on the long list of corruption and financial mismanagement accusations against current Board members as exposed by OpenTheBooks.com and reiterated nationally by outlets like Forbes and the Wall Street Journal?
Claire Ball: I think these accusations need to be thoroughly investigated and deserve more mainstream media scrutiny than they have received. I believe a thorough and detailed audit, one laying out every dollar and tracing every transaction, should be done, and the Board of Trustees should be leading the charge to make that happen. Unfortunately, that will not happen with the current lineup of Board members, I believe. When over $26 million dollars can be funneled through an imprest spending account, and the Board is “surprised” but unwilling to take action, it is clearly an intentional lack of oversight on their part.
Illinois Herald: There are 14 candidates facing off to fill 3 open seats. Considering 2 are current Board members, one is a past Board member, one is a former politician, one is a bank executive, and one is the dad of a current Board member - what differences do you see between yourself and the other candidates?
Claire Ball: Oh, where to start. First, let me say that I can’t speak to the motivations of my fellow candidates - I can only talk about my own. I am an accountant, and my motivations come from a desire to bring transparency and accountability to the position, to help stop the fraud and restore the trust of the taxpayers. I think my background in accounting lends me a strong advantage over other choices, not only from the understanding of accounting principles but also in standing ground over decision making. It’s something I do every day at my accounting job at a large telecommunications company. I am not a politician - I have no ambitions to create political dynasties of my own. I am a libertarian, and believe strongly in honesty and integrity in all facets of life and government. I believe in fiscal and personal responsibility, and the freedom of every individual to pursue their happiness without intruding on anyone else’s freedoms.
Illinois Herald: According to OpenTheBooks.com, “It now appears CoD has a sophisticated pay-to-play scheme with Board members of its supporting community foundation. Payments from CoD to CoD Foundation Board members or their affiliated companies total $192 million since 2010.” How do you feel about this extremely obvious and extremely profitable conflict of interests?
Claire Ball: Pay-to-play is alive and well in Illinois, and it is certainly not surprising that this level of corruption is going on. But it is dismaying to think that it could be so widespread and rampant at a community college. Over $400K in payments to Herricane Graphics, $465K to the law firm Robbins, Schwartz, Nicholas, Lifton & Taylor, $330K to Wight & Company - and all three happen to have executives on COD’s foundation Board? You don’t have to be an accountant to see how corrupt that is, but maybe you need to be one to do something about it. Community colleges are such a valuable resource for people trying to better themselves, and to hear that the people entrusted with the job of managing that resource are so arrogantly and callously abusing that trust is alarming.
Illinois Herald: Just for the record, do you own any companies that are currently collecting millions of dollars in no-bid contracts from the College of DuPage like so many of the other current Board members do?
Claire Ball: Let me check my Swiss bank accounts…no.
Illinois Herald: For The Good Of Illinois and Reboot Illinois have both called CoD Board Vice Chair Kathy Hamilton the lone honest and reform-minded member of the CoD Board of Trustees. If elected next month, do you see yourself as a second ‘reformer’ allied with Kathy? Or as an impartial Board member unconnected to either the establishment members or the reformers?
Claire Ball: I support Kathy and everything she’s done so far. And as a fellow accountant, she and I see eye-to-eye on how a lot of things should be done, such as actual transparency in the books, greater scrutiny and analysis on where the money is going, and better controls over all areas of finance. That being said, I am neither a tea-party Republican nor an Illinois machine Democrat. I am a libertarian, and if a time should come where I have to stand on my libertarian principles of freedom and personal responsibility against any other trustee members, I will not hesitate to do so.
Illinois Herald: Politically speaking, I understand you're an independent, a Libertarian to be specific. Is that correct and is the April ballot non-partisan or will your party affiliation be listed on the ballot?
Claire Ball: This is a non-partisan race, so I will not be listed as a Libertarian on the ballot. However, I am still very much a lower-case libertarian, and I do have official endorsements from the Libertarian Party of Illinois and the DuPage Libertarians.
Illinois Herald: Do you think it will help or hurt your campaign that you're not connected to one of the two establishment parties? What unique qualities would a libertarian bring to the CoD Board of Trustees?
Claire Ball: I think it will completely help my campaign being unconnected to either established parties. Who better to look over the books of the Republicans and Democrats than a libertarian? As a third party candidate, I am not beholden to any larger group pressuring me to do things I would not normally do, that go against my values and principles. More and more people today identify politically with independents, and I am not afraid to run on that.
Illinois Herald: Do you have a campaign website or a campaign Facebook page people can go to for more information or to volunteer to help your campaign?
On behalf of the Illinois Herald, I just want to thank Claire Ball, candidate for College of DuPage Board of Trustees, for taking the time to talk to us.
Illinois Herald endorses Claire Ball for College of DuPage Board of Trustees
The Illinois Herald is proud to endorse Claire Ball for the College of DuPage Board of Trustees. Her experience, honesty and passion for reform are exactly what the scandal-plagued College of DuPage needs. Her admiration for community colleges shows she is in touch with the people who use them and depend on them, unlike some of the current Board members who’s passions include funnelling school funds to companies they own. The College of DuPage needs a Board member like Claire Ball and we urge voters to cast their vote for her on April 7, 2015.
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