C. Ridge village board to discuss ethics proposal at special meeting

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

           The Chicago Ridge Village Board will hold a special committee of the whole meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9, to review the details of a code of ethics ordinance that Trustee Sally Durkin proposed at the regular board meeting on Tuesday.

           Durkin had wanted the ethics ordinance to be voted on Tuesday, saying she has been working on seeing it to completion since being elected to the board three years ago. But after Mayor Chuck Tokar and several trustees questioned its restrictions, she agreed to postpone voting until the next village board meeting on Nov. 17 to allow time for the committee meeting, which will be open to the public.

           “I thought there were a lot of good things in it, but there are some concerns,” said Tokar.

           Among other things, the proposed code of ethics, a 14-page document, would prevent village employees, as well as elected and appointed officials, from being obligated to do any political activity as part of their job duties or as a condition of employment. Making political contributions and advocating for or against referendums is also prohibited.

           But although compensated time, meaning during work hours, is mentioned in the document, it is unclear whether a prohibition against employees and officials willingly participating in political activity would extend to after work hours also.

           Tokar, as well as Trustees Bill McFarland and Jack Lind, were among those who understood it to mean a total prohibition, and questioned the legality of such a restriction.

           “It would appear to prevent elected officials from running for re-election, since they couldn’t work on any campaign,” said McFarland.

           “How do you tell anyone they can’t (engage in any political activity)? I work on (state Rep.) Kelly Burke’s campaign. I’m not going to sign on to anything that would prevent me from doing that,” said Lind.

           “How can we tell an employee that they can’t go out and help someone get elected, or work on a campaign?,” asked Tokar incredulously.

           Village Attorney Burt Odelson, who didn’t work on the ordinance himself, said that most of what is in the proposed ordinance is already included in the state statute. But he added that, “there are some additions here that might make it difficult to make any contributions, It could very well restrict anyone from making any money for anything.”

           Durkin asserted that the proposed ordinance is taken “pretty much verbatim” from one already in place in Morton Grove.

           “Really and truly, we want an ethics ordinance in place,” said Trustee Fran Coglianese, who argued in favor of passing the ordinance as is, and then amending it if necessary after the committee meeting on Monday.

           “If it is already in place in Morton Grove, it must be legal,” she said.

           “Well, how would we know unless someone challenges it in court?,” responded the mayor.

           Durkin said she would “rather not waste anyone’s time voting on it” before the committee meeting can determine whether it is too restrictive.

“It’s a matter of interpretation. But we will hash it all out,” said Durkin after the meeting.