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Article updated: 11/5/2013 6:20 PM

Sayad wants Des Plaines council, not mayor, to choose hearing officer

Dick Sayad

Dick Sayad

 
Matt Bogusz

Matt Bogusz

 
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A Des Plaines alderman wants to take away the mayor's power to appoint a hearing officer to adjudicate local ordinance violations.

It's the only paid position in city government over which the mayor has control, said 4th Ward Alderman Dick Sayad, who has called for a change to city rules that would allow the 8-member city council to choose a hearing officer.

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Currently, Mayor Matt Bogusz has the power to select an officer, and the council votes to confirm or reject that selection.

The only thing Sayad and Bogusz agree on is putting out a request for proposals for a 2014 hearing officer.

Whether the council or mayor alone gets to choose from that list is the subject of debate.

The hearing judge handles everything from parking and red-light camera tickets to unpaid utility bills and underage drinking violations, during hearings at city hall.

Before 2002, cases were sent to the Cook County courthouse in Skokie, and Des Plaines received only 12-15 percent of all fines imposed.

The Des Plaines hearing judge's fee is $300 per session. During the first seven months of 2013, the city paid the officer $10,500, while administrative hearings generated $62,750 in revenue.

The current hearing officer, Chris Cohen of the Glencoe-based Cohen Law Firm, has worked for Des Plaines since 2011, though his yearly contract is due to expire Dec. 31.

Sayad said he doesn't have a problem with Cohen. But the alderman does want the council to have a greater say in who sits in that position.

"I think Mr. Cohen is a very fine gentlemen. He's a well-respected individual," Sayad said. "The issue is his contract is expiring. I think it's time we go out for an RFP."

Bogusz said he would continue to "protect the integrity of the administrative hearing process."

"I will continue to appoint that person following the results from the RFP, with the consensus and concurrence with the council," he told aldermen Monday during a council meeting.

Bogusz could choose to retain Cohen, or select someone different.

And Sayad could continue to push for an ordinance change to take that power away from Bogusz, though time is running out to do so for the 2014 hearing officer.

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