JOLIET – City council members questioned restrictions in an anti-nepotism proposal Thursday at the Land Use and Legislative Committee in Joliet. However, the council voted, 3-0, to recommend the proposal for a vote by the full council.
The proposed ordinance would prohibit any relative of an elected official from being a city employee.
It also would bar relatives from supervising other relatives on the city payroll.
The ordinance would apply to future employees and supervisory assignments if approved. Current employees would be grandfathered in.
Council members Jan Quillman and Terry Morris questioned the application on the nepotism restrictions on employees already on the job before a relative is elected.
Quillman’s husband, who now is retired, was a Joliet police officer when she was elected to the council 12 years ago.
“Down the road, if another policeman or fireman’s husband or wife wants to run and becomes elected, he has to quit his job,” Quillman said.
Quillman said she had recused herself on votes that involved pay for her husband and had left closed sessions when police contracts were discussed.
But Interim City Attorney Chris Regis said his proposed ordinance follows models used by other municipalities.
“Even if the councilperson recuses [oneself], under best government practices that is considered influence,” Regis said.
Regis said he developed the proposed ordinance after finding the city’s current nepotism policy “lax to say the least” when a citizen questioned it.
Joliet now bars elected officials from advocating for a relative seeking a job.
However, the city has no rules against hiring relatives of elected officials or barring relatives from supervising each other.
Joliet resident Bob Nachtrieb, who is active in the Cathedral Area Preservation Association, spoke in favor of the proposed ordinance.
“We have lots of people in Joliet complaining about the appearance of conflict of interest in city hall, probably because of the number of people with the same last names,” Nachtrieb said. “I’ve lived here 22 years, and I think Joliet would do well to clean up the appearance of conflict of interest as well as what actually occurs.”
Regis suggested that he could change the proposal to make exceptions for employees on the job before a relative is elected.
But Councilman Don Dickinson said he thought the proposal should go forward as is.
“I think if it’s already up and everybody knows the rules going in, what he’s recommending would be alright,” Dickinson said.