An Oak Lawn trustee wants elected
and appointed village officials to disclose their sexual relationships as part
of a revamped ethics code.
Trustee Bob Streit’s request came before a vote to add a section prohibiting village officials and employees from using their positions to influence government decisions in which they have a distinguishable financial interest.
The measure also bars elected officials from participating in discussions or voting on matters during village board meetings in which they, their spouses or “domestic partners” have derived or expect to derive income or compensation for a period of one year.
Prior to being elected last April, Mayor Sandra Bury ran on a platform of ethics reform in the Village of Oak Lawn. Streit, in suggesting the sexual relationship disclosure, said the term “domestic partner” is too vague.
“I don’t think we can seriously think that this is a finished product,” Streit said during Tuesday’s village board meeting. “I have several suggestions to tighten up the ethical issues and the loopholes that don’t go far enough to protect the taxpayer.”
Streit said the ordinance exempted Bury’s relationships “because she’s not married.” He recommended eliminating the loopholes affecting the mayor and trustees by further clarifying the definition of “domestic partner” in the ordinance.
“I know that everyone here is married except for the mayor, but I would think the term [domestic partner] should be defined to include anyone who has a sexual or cohabitation relationship with any official,” Streit said. “We live in a new world and ‘domestic partner’ may not describe all of the relationships that all officials have today.”
The trustee opined that he didn’t think the ordinance went far enough if it didn't include those sexual relationships that “any party may have with another person.”
“Perhaps we can include a form that requires all of of us to list such relationships,” he said. “I can’t believe that any elected or appointed official could argue that such disclosures are necessary unless that person has something to hide.”
He added that the ordinance was a good start but it should apply to everyone, “including attorneys, advisors, handlers, drivers and even the mayor.”
“In any case,” Streit said, “these are just suggestions that we should discuss if you are truly interested in providing transparency and good government during your tenure. I would offer the above suggestions as amendments to the ordinance.”
In addition to strengthening the definition of domestic partner, Streit said the ordinance created other potential problems and conflicts, mentioning the mayor’s optometry practice.
Streit said that under the amended ethics ordinance, that the mayor would be required to disclose relationships with her patients wishing to do business with the village.
Adding that other than an exam fee, federal privacy laws prevented her from revealing patients’ identities, a trust she held sacred.
“That would be for the [village] attorney to decide,” Bury said. “When you start talking about personal relationships and why you’re targeting me with this type of language, I would really like an explanation.”
The mayor countered with a suggestion to include language for extra-marital affairs.
“Why you’re not including language with respect to other potential relationships people may have, I think it’s vulgar what you’re implying and not saying. I would want an apology.”
“Why, what was I saying?” Streit asked. “Your relationships are ruled by the ordinance. I think they should be included.”
Oak Lawn trustees, one who was seen rolling his eyes during Streit's speech, voted 6-0 to amend the ethics code.
Streit voted yes as a start “but I want to see these amendments.”