The topic of recusals was addressed at last night’s Naperville City Council meeting. Councilwoman Theresa Sullivan brought it up during the New Business section, suggesting if a petitioner or representative of the petitioner donated at least $500 to a particular candidate, that councilperson should recuse themselves.
Sullivan said it’s something she’s been advocating for since before she was elected to the dais.
“My motivation comes from the fact that our constituents want to know that when we or any future council members sit up here and take a vote, that we’re voting based on the merits of the argument and in good faith and using our best judgment, and that how much money we did or didn’t collect form certain donors during our last campaign has nothing to do with that,” she said.
Mayor Steve Chirico said he disagrees with the suggestion and offered a few reasons why. He said campaigns cost money and discouraging large donations limits those who can run for council to those who can self-fund at least part of their candidacy.
“When I support a candidate, it’s because that candidate is like-minded [to me]. I know they’re going to do policies that generally will align with what I think are good policies,” he said. “And so I’ll make financial contributions on that basis. But then if that person has to recuse themselves whenever I step up for city business, then that would be reason for me to say, ‘I’m going to get essentially punished for making a political campaign contribution,’ which is not what it’s meant to be.”
The Current Rules
Recusals have come up before in council chambers, most recently after Mayor Chirico recused himself from a Central Park Place vote in March of 2019. That led to a discussion on when it was appropriate to recuse yourself. The current Municipal Code states:
No member of the City Council or the City Manager shall have an ownership interest, an employment interest, or a family interest in any of the following matters:
- Any contract, business, or transaction of the City or in the sale of any article to the City where the expense, price, or consideration is paid either from the City’s treasury or by an assessment levied by the City;
- Any purchase of goods, articles, or property belonging to the City;
- Any purchase of property sold for delinquent taxes or assessments of the City or sold by virtue of legal process at the suit of the City.
Councilman Benny White argued that making Sullivan’s suggestion the norm rather a policy makes more sense. City Attorney Mike DiSanto said if her suggestion were adopted, it would likely need to be self-policed by the council members.
At the end of the discussion, council members Sullivan, White, Kevin Coyne, and Patrick Kelly said they’d be interested in city staff looking into the issue.
Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.
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