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The Durante Family; The Making of a Marriage Between the DuPage Forest Preserve District & State's Attorney's Office

A true story of cronyism, family, conflicts of interest, ethics and overall weirdness in DuPage County government.

CountyLeaks

Invoices submitted to the DuPage Forest Preserve District in 2011 show that the son of local GOP-heavyweight Pat Durante engaged in the "internal investigation" which led to recent "fraud scheme" charges against former employees and a vendor, inflaming more concerns of fairness and justice due to the District's historic political ties with the DuPage State's Attorney's office, as reported earlier this week in CountyLeaks.

In September 2012, the District's former director of its information technology (IT) department, Mark McDonald, and the department manager, David Tepper, were accused of of "stealing more than $100,000 from the district over a six-year period". A third man, Arif Mahmood, who worked for Alamach Technology, Inc., an IT vendor for the district, was charged with "being involved in one of the schemes", the Daily Herald reported.

Local government citizen watchdogs claim vendors contracted by the Forest Preserve District to conduct this internal IT investigation and to handle the crisis strategies surrounding the criminal charges have connections with the DuPage State's Attorney's office which are too close for comfort. The District's hiring of a finance director this year also bring concerns of a conflict of interest with the County's prosecutor.

One of those vendors is JRM Consulting, Inc. of Naperville, contracted in 2011 to conduct an audit of the IT Department.  Unknown to the public and not mentioned in their contract was the true scope of work -- to conduct an "internal computer forensics investigation" at the Forest Preserve.  The results of the months long investigation was presented to the State's Attorney's office on Nov. 21st.

Now watchdogs have received invoices showing that Vince Durante, son of Pat Durante, was working for JRM in some capacity -- as an employee, freelancer or subcontractor -- to participate in this "internal investigation".

The State of Illinois database also reports that Vincent Durante of DuPage County is an employee of the Illinois Department of Transportation as a "technical manager V" with a salary of $81,183.07. Pat Durante has served on the Board of Directors of the Regional Transit Authority since his appointment in 1995 and chairs the RTA's Audit Committee.

Since 1974, Pat Durante has served as chairman of the Addison Township Republicans, an organization aligned closely with D. "Dewey" Pierotti, president of the DuPage Forest Preserve District. The organization's website home page features endorsements and photos of Forest Preserve Commissioner Marsha Murphy, DuPage County State's Attorney Bob Berlin and Berlin's predecessor, Joe Birkett, running to maintain his seat on the Illinois Appellate Court, District Two. Berlin and Birkett are unopposed. Under the endorsements is a message from Chairman Durante. 

Pat Durante is perhaps best-known as an aide and gate-keeper of the late U.S. Congressman Henry Hyde (R-Ill. 6). He was a long-time Board member of the DuPage County Republicans

The political figure was also a coordinator in the state-wide campaigns of Jim "Stringini" Ryan for attorney general and governor. The Forest Preserve District's contracted political strategists, Reverse Spin, the District's Finance Director, Jack Hogan, and JRM owner's sister-in-law, Barbara Skurka/Marquardt, were paid by Ryan's gubernatorial campaigns.

Pat Durante's wife is Kathryn Cermak-Durante, elected supervisor of Addison Township.

Reported earlier this week on CountyLeaks...

The owner of JRM is Jerry Marquardt of Naperville. No information can be located on-line showing that JRM has expertise or licenses to conduct forensic investigations -- a specialized field usually involving advanced training and certification. 

JRM has been paid $38,000 since 1999 for political consulting in Illinois, including payment of over $14,000 for goods and services by Citizens to Elect Joe Birkett; the former state's attorney stepped down in November 2010 to accept an appointment to the Illinois appellate court, District 2.

The brother of Jerry is Scott Marquardt, owner of Marquardt & Co., of Wheaton.  Marquardt & Co. are lobbyists for both the office of DuPage County State's Attorney and the DuPage County Election Commission. Scott Marquardt and his wife, Barbara Skurka, team up at the law firm, Marquardt & Belmonte, also of Wheaton. Marquardt and Skurka are former assistant DuPage County State's Attorney. In fact, all seven attorneys listed at the firm cut their legal teeth at the same office that is prosecuting McDonald, Tepper and Mahmood.

One former assistant state's attorney working at Marquardt & Belmonte law firm and Roger C. Marquardt & Co.  -- Rick Veenstra of Addison -- has returned to the law enforcer's office as the Deputy Chief of the Civil Bureau and manager of its Governmental Affairs and Special Litigation Division.  

On reports to the Illinois State Board of Elections, Barbara Skurka uses one of two last names -- Skurka or Marquardt. There is no hyphenation.

Skurka/Marquardt is reportedly the paid fundraiser for the campaign of current State's Attorney Bob Berlin. Since February 2011, Skurka/Marquardt has received $40,000 from Citizens for Bob Berlin for consulting. The campaign's paid treasurer is Jack Hogan, finance director of the Forest Preserve.

Skurka/Marquardt, Hogan and the Forest Preserve's contracted political strategists, Reverse Spin, were also paid for extensive political work for former DuPage State's Attorneys Joe Birkett and Jim Ryan; on various campaigns, Skurka/Marquardt has been paid a total of $376,000, Hogan $102,000 and Reverse Spin/Curry Public Strategies $260,000.

Click HERE for a photo of lobbyist Scott Marquardt with his clientele DuPage County State's Attorney Bob Berlin and DuPage County Election Commission attorney Pat Bond.

CountyLeaks Asks:

Why, why, why was Vince Durante part of the "internal investigation"? Is it because he was trusted to perform the job?

What are Vince Durante's forensics qualifications or do political connections suffice?

How could this "internal investigation" possibly be considered independent?

Did Vince Durante's position at IDOT have anything to do with his ol' man being a director at the RTA? Or, is it like everything else CountyLeaks reports -- a mere coincidence?

Why investigate McDonald, Tepper and Mahmood? Why not all the Forest Preserve Commissioners, president, executive staff (past and present), the vendors, the barber, and the State's Attorney's office itself?

Does CountyLeaks smell RICO violations?

Why did Forest Preserve Policewoman Kathy Murphy-Nowak, daughter of Commissioner Marsha Murphy, come on the property of a citizen who had made Freedom of Information Act requests for Alamach invoices? Gee, how did Murphy-Nowak nail a job at the Forest Preserve? The same way Vince Durante nailed a job at IDOT?

Did the Forest Preserve's contracted 24/7 political strategists wake up the District's president at 3 am to alert him of this story? 

CountyLeaks

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

CountyLeaks November 06, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Watch this ABC News video to see the DuPage Forest Preserve's tax-paid "internal investigator" of staff receiving money off the side with government contracts while working at his tax-paid IDOT job. Wait a minute...wasn't he investigating the same type of activity HE was doing himself? Is this why he was selected to investigate, because he understands how it works? http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/special_segments&id=8644440

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