Still no contract, no firing for Des Plaines hearing officer

Updated 8/4/2014 11:41 PM
  • Chris Cohen

    Chris Cohen

Chris Cohen is staying put for now as Des Plaines' city hearing officer, tasked with judging guilt or innocence for red-light camera tickets and parking violations.

And even though he has been working without a contract since Jan. 1, a proposed deal that would have given Mayor Matt Bogusz the power to fire Cohen was tabled by the city council on a 6-2 vote Monday night.

Bogusz has sought to appoint a new hearing officer to improve a process he said has become too slow and inefficient.

In May, the mayor recommended David Eterno become the new administrative hearing officer, but the council voted 5-3 on July 21 to reject the appointment.

Bogusz asked Cohen late last month to resign, but Cohen refused.

On Monday, Bogusz asked the council to approve a new one-year agreement with Cohen, who was appointed in 2011 by then-Mayor Marty Moylan. Only Aldermen Denise Rodd and Joanna Sojka voted against tabling the agreement.

"I'm not in favor of having Mr. Cohen as hearing officer; however if the council wishes to proceed in that direction, he needs to have a contract," Bogusz said.

The agreement proposes Cohen undergo a performance review with City Manager Mike Bartholomew after 90 days. At that time, Bogusz would be able to fire Cohen if the review is unsatisfactory.

But the proposed agreement also states that Bogusz may terminate the contract with Cohen "immediately and at any time, without cause or reason."

Bogusz said that without a contract, Cohen is able to charge the city whatever he wants to conduct the administrative hearings.

Reached by phone after the council meeting, Cohen said a $300-per-session rate has been standard since his appointment and during the tenures of two previous hearing officers. He said he's not asking for a raise.

"I'm continuing to do this until they make a different decision," Cohen said.

City Manager Mike Bartholomew said Cohen has typically presided over four or five hearings per month at city hall, but city officials will be changing the schedule to include just three hearings in August and two for every remaining month in 2014.

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