Winfield village president calls on trustees to follow 'rules of civility'

  • Deborah Birutis

    Deborah Birutis

 
 
Posted11/3/2011 5:30 AM

Winfield Village President Deb Birutis is proposing nine "rules of civility" to help the village get back on track after a rocky October that saw a trustee narrowly avoid censure after confronting a resident.

As part of the village board's committee of the whole meeting today, trustees will consider the rules to remedy a situation that has gotten increasingly testy since three newly elected trustees took their seats in May.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Among the rules are seemingly standard behaviors such as "show respect," "be inclusive" and "pay attention."

But those behaviors have been lacking at village board meetings since the change over, Birutis said.

"We have been working with this issue for the past six months," she said Wednesday. "It doesn't seem to be getting any better. A lot of municipalities have boards that disagree on different issues. But they vary in their level of civility to each other."

Trustees routinely bicker at meetings, and that often leads to less time to address agenda items.

The hostility between two warring factions in town peaked last month when Trustee Tony Reyes approached former publisher Stan Zegel after the Oct. 6 board meeting.

Zegel had accused Reyes of withholding information from a Freedom of Information Act request and had taken the accusations to the Illinois attorney general's office. Reyes took offense and approached Zegel. Zegel accused Reyes of assault, aggravated assault and official misconduct in a police report filed after the incident.

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Winfield police turned the matter over to state police. Officials with the state police have not indicated whether they would investigate.

During the Oct. 20 meeting, Trustee Erik Spande attempted to censure Reyes. That motion failed by a 3 to 2 vote.

Birutis said she wants the board to focus on strategic planning initiatives that include updating the village's infrastructure, developing town center and addressing stormwater issues, among others.

"These should be the main focus instead of bickering over procedural issues or the minutiae of meetings," she said. "There are many goals that this board could be working on together because we have gone through a strategic plan."

Birutis, who served as trustee from 2005 until her election as village president in 2009, said the situation is the worst she has seen from the board since she first took office.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Included as part of the board packet for Thursday's meeting is a memo sent by Village Manager Curt Barrett July 7. In it, Barrett outlines several of the "struggles" faced by his staff in the first 60 days of the new trustees' terms.

The items included personal attacks on village staff, a lack of respect for majority decisions reached by the board and reminders by an unnamed trustee that he would be village president in two years.

Birutis said the board should find a way to work together and start focusing on getting things done.

"We have to agree to disagree but no more threats, no more name-calling," Birutis said. "The effect can be that everyone agrees that these will be the rules we will abide by going forward and will try our best to work together."

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