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Local News

Okon: Conflicts of interest can be interesting in Joliet

Interim City Manager Martin Shanahan (left) has been doing the job since David Hales (right) left in October and did it before Hales was hired.
Interim City Manager Martin Shanahan (left) has been doing the job since David Hales (right) left in October and did it before Hales was hired.

Interim City Manager Martin Shanahan meets the job description to become the permanent city manager, the city council was advised last week. Interim City Attorney Chris Regis provided the opinion because the matter had been raised by at least one council member.

Interestingly enough, Regis delivered the opinion moments before Mayor Bob O’Dekirk declared that city staff should not be involved in any application process or candidate search for a permanent city manager because it would be a conflict of interest. The theory is that since all city staff falls under the supervision of Shanahan as interim city manager, they have a conflict of interest in the selection of a new city manager. Therefore, city employees who normally would be involved in a city hiring process cannot be called upon to provide staff support for the council in a candidate search or even in a simple posting of the job.

Apparently, no conflict of interest applied to Regis, however, in determining that Shanahan met the job qualifications, although Regis is a city employee who was advising the council on whether they could hire Shanahan for the job.

Regis has been a city employee for more than three years. He and Shanahan have worked closely together. When Shanahan has not been interim city manager, he is the head city attorney for Joliet, and Regis works directly for him as assistant city attorney.

No one at the council meeting Tuesday questioned whether Regis had a conflict of interest in determining whether his boss was qualified for a promotion. The likely successor to the city attorney job should Shanahan become permanent city manager would be Regis. Of course, the city could open up the city attorney job for applicants. But top jobs at city hall are not always posted.

The council is divided over whether the city manager job should be opened up for applicants. So far, a majority of council members have favored opening it up for applicants including Shanahan.

But a minority, including the mayor, want to give the job to Shanahan, saying he has proved himself, after filling in twice when the city manager job was vacated and arguing that a candidate search would be expensive and time-consuming. It certainly will get more expensive and time-consuming if city staff is barred from providing support in the process. O’Dekirk said Joliet may have to bring in outside attorneys and probably an employment consultant because any participation by the city’s own human resource department would be a conflict of interest.

Maybe it would get so expensive and time-consuming that the council would decide just to give the job to Shanahan and be done with it.

More downtown parking

The 30 new spaces at the downtown parking lot at Chicago and Van Buren streets could be available later next week.

The gravel lot that was there since the former Will County State’s Attorney’s Office building was demolished has been paved and should be striped in coming days, Joliet Public Works Director James Trizna said.

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