Des Plaines aldermen reject additions to mayor's ethics ordinance
Des Plaines aldermen Monday night rejected Mayor Matt Bogusz's proposed ethics ordinance additions that would have required elected officials to disclose whether they have any active lawsuits filed against the city.
In their 5-3 vote against the ordinance changes, aldermen accused Bogusz of playing politics by appearing to target Alderman Jim Brookman, a former city firefighter who filed a workers' compensation claim against the city in 2006. Aldermen Denise Rodd, Don Smith and Mike Charewicz voted in favor of the ordinance.
Brookman's name and details about his case appeared on an 11-page city document that lists active litigation against the city.
The document was prepared by the city's attorneys, provided to the city council in March, and obtained by the Daily Herald earlier this month.
The documents state that Brookman at one time had asked for a "last-and-final" lump sum settlement demand of $325,000, plus a Medicare set-aside trust.
The city's insurance carrier, Safety National, countered with a final offer of $270,000.
City officials and attorneys haven't said why Brookman's case was still on the active list, but Brookman reiterated his position Monday that his case had been settled in 2009, when he was awarded workers' compensation benefits of $591.77 per week for back and neck injuries sustained during a training exercise while he was a fire captain.
"There is no active litigation. My attorney confirmed that," Brookman said. "He will send a letter to the city that when a final award was reached, there was no litigation. It was over in 2009 and the city should know that."
"It was pure politics from the beginning," he added.
Without mentioning Brookman by name, Bogusz on Monday echoed comments he made when he introduced his ordinance at the June 6 city council meeting, that he "learned something that surprised" him after reading the 11-page document in March.
The proposed rules would have required elected officials to recuse themselves from deliberating or voting on matters that directly relate to their litigation.
Bogusz said the council makes significant policy decisions related to litigation, such as increasing or decreasing city attorney retainer fees, and whether to be self-insured or be part of an insurance pool.
"This is an easy decision," Bogusz said. "You cannot be the plaintiff if you control the actions of the defendant. It's that simple."
Under the proposed ordinance, Brookman would have been required to check a box on the city's ethics disclosure statement one time, but not annually, City Manager Mike Bartholomew said.
Also Monday, a number of aldermen called for an outside investigation into how the city documents, labeled "confidential attorney/client privilege," were leaked by city officials to the Daily Herald.
Aldermen asked Bartholomew to contact the Cook County state's attorney's office and Illinois Attorney General.
He said if they don't take the case, an outside legal firm could be hired to investigate whether the city's ethics code was broken.