St. Charles aldermen want state to change recusal rules for liquor license holders
Now that the St. Charles city council settled a lingering issue by allowing liquor-license holders to serve as elected officials, some aldermen are ready to take a bold next step.
They'd like the state to revise its statute that says elected officials with liquor licenses must recuse themselves from votes on all liquor-related issues. The aldermen believe the limits are unnecessarily broad in trying to prevent conflicts of interest.
"From a St. Charles standpoint, what efforts can we do to lobby, talk to our representatives down there, to try to get this recusal modified so it makes some competitive sense in terms of what we're asking people to do?" said Ward 3 Alderman Todd Bancroft.
The aldermen voted 6-4 this week to amend the local ordinance and allow Blue Goose Market owner and liquor license holder Paul Lencioni to be seated as a Ward 3 alderman on May 3.
While expressing reservations about changing the ordinance, several aldermen noted the number of times Lencioni will need to recuse himself from city council votes because of the state statute. City records indicate there were 36 such liquor-related votes put before the city council since the start of 2019.
Ward 2 Alderman Rita Payleitner, who voted against changing the local law, said her decision was based on the state statute.
"Had Springfield changed its mind, I'd be all for (changing the ordinance)," she said. "My stipulation here is the restrictions imposed on us by the state."
Lencioni wants the state to specify the recusals. As a grocery store owner, for example, he feels he should be allowed to vote on bar-related issues.
"What does whether a bar is open until midnight or 1 (a.m.) have to do with selling lettuce or a bottle of wine people are going to take home?" Lencioni said. "The state statute makes zero sense."
Lencioni said he's talked to representatives from retail and restaurant associations as well as current and former legislators to help sway the state to make a change. He thinks the recusals should be limited to issues within the class of liquor license held.
Bancroft believes liquor license holders are being unfairly singled out.
"The state ought to treat liquor license holders no different than they treat real estate developers, car salesmen, whatever," he said.
"Mr. Lencioni, as the owner of the Blue Goose, probably doesn't have too many conflicts of interest related to at least a business setting if he's going against a tavern."