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updated: 9/21/2011 5:40 PM

Grayslake firms hiring rules, targets insider connection

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  • Jeff Werfel

      Jeff Werfel

 
 

Grayslake now has a local law proponents say solidifies that a job candidate's skills -- not political connections -- are what should matter at village hall.

Although Grayslake informally hasn't allowed the hiring of relatives of employees or let elected officials accept jobs soon after their terms end, the village board's action Tuesday night put it in writing.

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Under the local law, there is a prohibition on the hiring of elected officials for any village job until five years after their last day in office.

Moreover, the ordinance bans the hiring of relatives of village employees and sitting elected officials for any Grayslake municipal post.

Officials did not cite any problems as the reason for the ordinance.

"This ordinance will affirm the village's existing merit-based and transparent hiring practices," Mayor Rhett Taylor said. "By approving it, these existing practices become law."

Trustee Jeff Werfel said the ordinance was a good idea that should help to boost Grayslake taxpayers' confidence in village government.

"It's a way to ensure conflicts of interest or worse scenarios do not occur in Grayslake," Werfel said.

But a statewide government watchdog organization questioned whether Grayslake's local law goes too far.

David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said Grayslake's requirement that an elected official be out of office for at least five years is much longer than usual for such laws. He said one or two years is more typical.

Morrison said Grayslake's ordinance potentially can keep the most qualified candidates from getting village jobs.

"Without some demonstration there's been a problem (in Grayslake), they might be cutting off their nose to spite their face," he said.

Taylor responded that five years away from office reduces the chance of cronyism leading to the hiring of a former elected official.

"I think one or two years is really pretty close," he said. "Five years, you have a lot of space between the former elected official and the hiring."

Questions have arisen at some suburban governments about nepotism or political connections in hiring.

Mary Garcia was Grayslake Elementary District 46's board president in November 2010 when her husband, Robert, was hired for an operations and maintenance job.

Records show Robert Garcia received the Grayslake Middle School job about two months after he was "replaced due to an extended rehabilitation leave" at a Libertyville hardware store. Mary Garcia recused herself from voting on her husband's hiring, but he was not identified by name when he gained board approval.

District 46 received criticism for hiring former board member Michael Linder as a paid facilities engineering consultant about two months after resigning his volunteer post in November 2010.

Werfel said the District 46 hirings arose in conversation as Grayslake village officials worked to create the new ordinance.

In Rosemont, there are 10 members of the Stephens family on the village's payroll. Altogether, 28 members of six families were responsible for 10 percent of Rosemont's $20 million in personnel costs in 2010, according to village documents.

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