Joliet approves mayoral emergency closure powers

Brock A. Stein | 3/9/2017, 6 a.m.
Joliet has approved an amendment that will give the mayor's office the power to temporarily close a business if it ...
Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk delivers the state of the city address. Photo by Brock A. Stein

Joliet has approved a change to its code of ordinances that will grant emergency closure powers of licensed businesses to its mayor.

The move follows incidents in which the police have known about illegal drugs being sold and prostitution rings being run out of licensed businesses but were unable to stop them from continuing to operate.

City inspector general Chris Regis said that the changes will close a “loophole in city ordinance” and will give the local “police department an additional tool to do their jobs.”

The mayor already has emergency closure powers over establishments licensed to sell liquor he said Monday night. The changes would also add to those other licensed businesses that fall under the categories of food stores, restaurants, gas stations, tattoo parlors and hotels and motels.

This “gives the city an essential tool to protect the public against dangerous business practices,” Regis said.

Regis added that the mayor has a check on his power through the city manager’s ability to revoke a business license following a formal hearing process.

“We don’t want the emergency power and the revocation power vested in the same body,” he said.

Under the new changes, the mayor will be able to close a business for a maximum of 7 days during which time the business owner in question can request a hearing. Regis said that the mayor would also be required to consult with the city’s legal counsel before using the office’s emergency closure powers.

City Manager Jim Hock said that the change has been on the city’s to do list for a while following incidents in which a grocery market was found to be selling drugs but “we could not close the business for several days until that hearing was scheduled.”

Police Chief Brian Benton said the new powers would help in those types of cases.

“It was very frustrating because the business was allowed to operate,” he said.

Council member Pat Mudron cast the lone ‘no’ vote against the amendment saying that he thinks “it opens us up to litigation.”