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News

Joliet water commissioner says staff trying to oust him

Commissioner John Hertko speaks July 9 during a Environmental Commission meeting in Joliet.
Commissioner John Hertko speaks July 9 during a Environmental Commission meeting in Joliet.

A member of the commission charged with recommending a future source for Joliet water says there is an attempt to remove him because he asks too many question.

John Hertko was not at the Environmental Commission meeting Tuesday when the question of his future on the panel was a topic of discussion.

But Hertko later said that two top city administrators want him out.

Hertko said he was called into a Sept. 6 city hall meeting after texting interim City Manager Steve Jones questions about an August meeting where representatives from Joliet met with Chicago officials to talk about Lake Michigan water.

“The next thing I know I get a call from the mayor’s office,” Hertko said. “Steve Jones and Allison Swisher want me removed from the Environmental Commission.”

Swisher is the Joliet utilities director and is the staff leader in a study into future water sources.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, who appointed Hertko to the commission, said he does not intend to remove him.

O’Dekirk said Hertko “has been a great asset” on the commission.

“He’s been very outspoken,” O’Dekirk said, adding that Hertko has taken the time to research issues involved in the city’s search for an alternative water source.

The mayor, however, disputed Hertko’s contention that Jones and Swisher wanted him off the commission.

“That’s not a hundred percent correct,” O’Dekirk said, declining to go into details of what he described as “a private meeting.”

Jones would not comment on the matter, and Swisher could not be reached Friday afternoon.

Hertko said Swisher has objected to him bringing up government studies on issues, including contaminants in the Illinois River.

The Illinois River, Kankakee River and Lake Michigan are the three potential water sources the city is considering as it plans to switch from deep wells.

Hertko said Swisher and Jones want him off the commission “because I ask questions, because I bring forth these documents, because I appeared before the council.”

Hertko in June appeared before the City Council and said the city should look exclusively at Lake Michigan as the city’s future water source.

The commission, however, has not yet made that determination and is still studying the three options, including what they would cost.

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