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updated: 7/20/2011 4:39 PM

Winfield trustees may ease ethics code

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It's no secret in Winfield that there's no love lost among some village trustees.

That lack of trust could end up blocking a move by some trustees to open direct communication between themselves and prospective developers.

Trustee Erik Spande said Wednesday an effort to change the ethics code to allow direct contact with developers outside of formal meetings would be easier to swallow if he were certain all trustees had the same goals in mind.

"Trust takes time and trust is based on the actions of individuals involved and the degree with which they want to behave in a collegial manner," he said. "If they do not, it's extremely difficult to view their potential actions with the degree of trust that a loosening of ethics would result in."

On Thursday, the village board will consider repealing a section of the ethics code that requires any trustee contacted by developers to immediately notify village staff. Also, the ordinance requires the trustee to document and submit, within three days, a report of the initial contact to the village clerk.

Trustee Tony Reyes disagrees with Spande and says elected officials should be allowed to attract businesses and that the ordinance is unnecessary.

"It's insane," he said. "Part of our job is to attract investors. We sit here and get asked to vote on how to spend money. Part of the job is to bring people in to spend money."

The 5-year-old ordinance was a response to what Spande called a "rogue trustee" making promises to developers that were not followed up on. Only the village president is listed as an exception to the ordinance and the law centralizes developer communications to village staff.

Spande acknowledged the ordinance is more restrictive than other towns but said any trustee acting on his own could expose the village to problems from developers.

"I'm not sure I am there yet with my fellow trustees," he said. "Until the situation changes, I'm not sure I want to expose the village to the potential liability."

The ordinance also requires that a staff member be on hand if a trustee meets a developer. It is uncertain whether the repeal has the votes, although trustees Reyes, Tim Allen and Jay Olson have previously expressed support for the measure.

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