Elgin mayor wants ethics ordinance after reports that councilman is a lobbyist
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After touting the city's solid finances, public safety, community engagement and economic development, Elgin Mayor David Kaptain announced Thursday during his state of the city address that he wants to explore putting in place an ethics ordinance.
"This is something that every community should have," Kaptain said to an audience of about 130 business, community and education leaders. "Every citizen that pays taxes should have an opportunity to have the best government that they can get. And that's what we're going to provide the city of Elgin. We're going to make sure that we have quality people working in-house and as elected officials."
Kaptain told the Daily Herald he's considered an ethics ordinance over the past decade. He decided it was time to act after seeing news reports that Elgin Councilman Baldemar Lopez is a lobbyist registered with the state of Illinois.
Elgin should prohibit city council members from engaging in lobbying activities, Kaptain said. He directed city staff members to research an ordinance possibly modeled after Chicago's ethics ordinance or the state's ethics law. A Chicago City Council committee this week approved an ordinance that prohibits aldermen from lobbying state and local governments, and elected officials from lobbying at city hall.
Kaptain gave his address during a breakfast hosted by the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce at Elgin Community College.
Lopez, who attended the breakfast, said Kaptain's announcement caught him by surprise.
"I am not at all concerned about talking to him (Kaptain) and having this larger discussion about what this ethics ordinance should look like," Lopez said, adding he also plans to have conversations with council members. "It should be a comprehensive ordinance."
The ethics ordinance also should spell out ethics requirements for city employees, Kaptain said. He pointed to two former police department employees who pleaded guilty to stealing city funds in the last three years.
WBEZ 91.5-FM first reported in November that Lopez co-owned Stratagem Consulting Group with Chicago Alderman Gilbert Villegas Jr. The firm's clients had included ComEd, which ended its contract with Stratagem on Oct. 3, the report said. Stratagem clients this year also included the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Assocation and the Metropolitan Township Association, according to information on the Illinois secretary of state's website.
Villegas divested himself of his interest in Stratagem about two weeks ago, said Lopez, who works as an immigration attorney.
During his speech, Kaptain also said he wants to look into making changes to the city's procurement ordinance to broaden possibilities for local contractors. Lopez said he supports that.
Elgin remains focused on increasing early childhood education and employment opportunities for young workers, Kaptain said.
Among the city's challenges are balancing the parks and recreation budget -- now propped up by the general fund -- and addressing the underlying causes of homelessness, Kaptain said.
In response to a question from the audience, Kaptain said he favors establishing a low-threshold homeless shelter in Elgin. That would be a shelter that takes in people who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Overall, Kaptain said, "Elgin is probably one of the best communities you are going to find."