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Update: Joliet votes to change nepotism rules

Brock A. Stein | 11/22/2017, 5:38 a.m. | Updated on 11/22/2017, 5:44 a.m.
The City of Joliet is set to vote this week on a change in rules regarding the hiring and appointing ...
The Joliet City Council Photo by Brock A. Stein

Update 11/22/17:

The Joliet City Council on Tuesday night approved changes to its nepotism policy which will restrict relatives of elected officials from being hired by the city.

Before the vote, council members approved an amendment that allows relatives of employees to run for a public office. Council members Larry Hug and Terry Morris expressed concern on Monday night that the restriction would shrink the pool of qualified candidates.

Hug said he wasn't "comfortable preventing people from running for office."

11/21/17:

The City of Joliet is set to vote this week on a change in rules regarding the hiring and appointing of relatives by current elected officials and employees.

City attorney Chris Regis said that the amended nepotism rules are necessary to “help us clean up the public image of this city.”

“In some circles the City of Joliet is seen as a private club which exists for the benefit of a select group of people,” said Regis.

“An ordinance like this will be a necessary first step…to eliminate that perception.”

Regis said that he looked at neighboring municipalities and their rules on nepotism before crafting the new Joliet amendment. He said that the Joliet rules lean more toward the restrictive side of the spectrum of those ordinances he studied.

City Manager Martin Shanahan said that the new rules would disqualify relatives from holding appointed office or gaining employment during the tenure of a relative holding public office. Relatives would also be prohibited from serving in a supervisory capacity. The new changes would not apply to public officials and employees currently working for the city or holding office. Current elected officials with a relative working for the city includes Mayor Bob O’Dekirk whose wife Rebecca is listed in a 2016 employee salary report as working as a part-time office assistant.

Council member Terry Morris said he has concerns about the changes that disqualify a relative of an employee from running for office feeling “we might limit ourselves to qualified candidates because they wouldn’t be able to run.” He pointed out as an example current city council member Jan Quillman who first ran for office while her husband was still employed as a police officer.

Council member Larry Hug agreed, saying he’d like to see the rules changed to allow a person to run for office but have to disclose that a relative also worked for the city. With the number of employees that work for the city, Hug said that the new rules would disqualify thousands from running for office, “giving up their right to exercise their constitutional right to run for office.” Once in office, that elected official’s relatives would be barred from gaining employment however, said Hug.

Quillman said that she was far from being an “insider” when she ran four times before ultimately being elected in 2005.

“I was not part of those inner circles,” said Quillman, “Everybody knew that my husband was a police officer so I did have full disclosure.”