Posts Tagged firefighter running for village board seat

Northbrook Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

In recent years, Harris, Gallup, and other pollsters frequently have ranked firefighters first among professionals deserving of respect and trust. But in Northbrook and Glenview, two firefighters are being viewed warily by some politicians as they vie for seats on the boards of the villages where they work.

In Illinois, firefighters can run for seats on the town bodies that govern their professions – where members make the decisions about pay, union negotiations, approval of new equipment, and in some cases, even professional discipline. But some politicians say the exception for firefighters in rules prohibiting municipal employees from seeking office in their towns is a bad one.

In Northbrook, Firefighter Scott Bush is running for trustee against three opponents slated by the Northbrook Caucus.

Thanks to a 2005 law, firefighters are allowed to seek town board seats, a privilege denied to other municipal employees. Shortly after that law’s passage, the then-chief counsel of the Illinois Municipal League wrote that a conflict of interest occurs “because the firefighter would have an interest in his or her employment contract with the corporate authorities.” Roger Huebner concluded that it “has the inexplicable reality of only creating problems where problems do not need to exist.”

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Glenview Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

A Glenview firefighter is challenging members of the majority incumbent Unite Glenview Slate for a seat on the village board in the April 4 election.

Vincent Spalo has lived in the village for six years, has worked as a Glenview firefighter for the last 10 years, and sits on the executive board for the Glenview Firefighters Association Union Local 4186. He has three children aged 4, 6, and 8-years-old.

Spalo faces members of the Unite Glenview Slate of incumbent village trustees Debby Karton and John Hinkamp along with newcomer Karim Khoja. Also on the Unite slate is Village President Jim Patterson who is running unopposed for the village’s top elected post.

Although state conflict of interest laws prohibit municipal employees from running for boards which oversee those positions, a specific exemption exists for firefighters.

Illinois compiled statutes, 50 ILCS 135/12, the Local Governmental Employees Political Rights Act, allows firefighters to run for and hold office as a village trustee or city alderman in the municipality they serve, so long as political campaign activities do not take place while the candidate is on duty or in uniform.

A photo on a Spalo campaign mailer shows Spalo in a Glenview firehouse, in front of a fire engine, crouched down behind one of his young children. That child is wearing oversized protective firefighter pants. Spalo said the photo was taken several years ago when he was visiting a station while off duty with his son.

If elected, Spalo said he would remain a firefighter, recuse himself from any village board discussion on fire department related issues and would step down from his executive board position with the firefighters’ union.

Spalo said watching top Glenview managers and directors being awarded $1 million bonuses over the last four years, while reducing overall service levels, was a key factor motivating him to run for office.

He said the village’s practice of outsourcing services has also become excessive and should be reduced. He said fewer police and firefighters are on the street now than in past years.

One service which saw reductions several years ago was when village officials reduced overnight ambulances from three to two — something firefighters union officials took exception to.

Former Village Manager Todd Hileman was one of the highest paid village managers in Illinois before he left the village to take a position as Denton, TX city manager. Spalo said he is concerned village trustees could overcompensate whoever is hired to replace Hileman.

A post on Spalo’s candidate Facebook page points out Hileman made more than Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel along with several other big city mayors.

He is also concerned about the recent purchase a long vacant former hardware store property on Glenview Road just east of Harlem Avenue. He said the village should not be involved in the real estate business.

On affordable housing, he wants to ensure the village is meeting its Cook County-mandated 10% levels, but said he was unsure whether the village should mandate individual residential developments to set aside minimum numbers of affordable units.

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