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Article updated: 7/12/2013 2:53 PM

AG's office reviews Barrington Hills ex-mayor's appointments

By Eric Peterson

The Illinois attorney general's Public Access Bureau is reviewing a complaint that former Barrington Hills Village President Robert Abboud's 35 proposed committee appointments made after he lost the April 9 election were not adequately identified on a meeting agenda.

As such, the review is looking into whether the action constitutes a violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act, spokeswoman Natalie Bauer said. She would not speculate on the time frame of the review or what action would be appropriate if it determined a violation had occurred.

Abboud said he was following the advice of the village attorney that sufficient notice on the agenda did not necessarily have to include names.

"In the 12 years I was on the board, I don't remember the names of the appointees being on the agenda," Abboud said.

The request for review was filed by Barrington Hills resident Jack Reich.

At the April 22 village board meeting at which 31 appointments were approved from among the 35 nominations, Reich called on trustees to wait until newly elected village President Martin McLaughlin was sworn in two weeks later before approving any such appointments.

Reich argued that it was inappropriate for a president rejected by the voters to wield such influence over his successor's administration. But the Illinois attorney general's office is reviewing only whether the appointments were properly publicized, Bauer said.

The village board action was identified under the Administration section of the April 22 agenda as "[Approval] Appointments."

Reich argues the names and intended positions for these appointments should have been on the agenda.

The attorney general's office is reviewing that aspect of Reich's concern as well as the meeting's limitation of public comments to three minutes.

Abboud said he'd welcome the review of the matter but for the spending of tax money.

"If Mr. Reich wants to spend the public's money for his own political gain, I suppose he's entitled to do that," Abboud said. "I just don't think it's a good use of the public's money."

The only proposed appointments trustees didn't approve April 22 were the four plan commission nominations -- which included Abboud's wife, Patricia, and existing member Kelly Mazeski, who'd just lost her own election bid for trustee as a candidate supported by Abboud.

Reich said he was happy such egregiously political appointments were rejected but feels there were others approved that hampered the new direction of the president whom voters chose.

"The real issue for me is that we need to be vigilant as voters to good governance and not special-interest cronyism," Reich said.

Abboud said all his nominations -- including of his wife -- are based on technical expertise. Patricia Abboud could bring more knowledge about affordable housing requirements to the plan commission than most anyone else in the village, he said.

Trustee Karen Selman said she detected nothing out of the ordinary with the way the appointments were identified on the agenda. She said that's the way it's been throughout her time as a trustee and, before that, as village clerk.

Most of the appointments were simply reappointments of people she already knew, Selman said. If there was anything distinct about Patricia Abboud's nomination, it was that her resume had not made it into the meeting packet, she said.

"To me, there was nothing to take issue about," she said. "To me, it was much ado about nothing."

McLaughlin received a letter from the attorney general's office dated June 19 requesting a written response explaining the circumstances and notification protocols of the April 22 meeting.

But as it was a meeting he had nothing to do with, he asked the village's attorney to draft the response.

McLaughlin said the village attorney's opinion of the agenda's compliance with the law is at odds with an outside opinion he's heard. But he plans to let the attorney general's decision dictate whatever action is taken.

McLaughlin said he respects the spirit of volunteerism that brought all the appointees to their current positions.

If the attorney general decided that vacating all the appointments was the proper remedy for a violation of the Open Meetings Act, he would lean toward reappointing most of the volunteers, he said. But he can't guarantee he would reappoint everyone, and the uncertainty is unfortunate, he said.

"Really, what took place wasn't in the best interest of the serving individuals," McLaughlin said.

Two of McLaughlin's own nominations have already failed to be seconded by the board.

Last month, he nominated Mazeski for the plan commission and trustee candidate David Stieper for the zoning board.

The former candidates represented nearly opposite camps in the April election, and McLaughlin said he felt their appointments could help the village put recent political discord behind it. The fact that neither nomination received even a second left McLaughlin believing that it was just too soon, he said.

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