The Nitty Gritty Of Tonight’s City Council Meeting


Tonight’s meeting of the Park Ridge City Council (City Hall, 7:30 p.m.) involves two agenda [pdf] items that implicate transparency and accountability in local government, which should be of concern to residents who favor open and honest government.

The first item shows up under the “City Attorney” portion of the meeting, and is the continuing saga of former mayor Howard P. Frimark’s possible violation of the City’s ethics ordinance by his attempt at selling insurance for the Uptown structures, of which the City is one of the insureds by virtue of its ownership of the underground parking garage.  Now that it appears the deal with Frimark has been un-done – exactly how we’re not sure, unless Frimark agreed to rescind his agreement with the insureds – the question remains whether the Council will try to treat it as a no-harm, no-foul situation and sweep it under the rug, or will they actually address it through the process prescribed in the ordinance, culminating in a vote by the Council as to whether or not to prosecute Frimark for a violation if the City Attorney opines that there was one.

Almost as interesting will be whether the Council runs off into closed session to hide these deliberations from the public, even though – as everyone who reads this blog should know by now – the Illinois Open Meetings Act merely permits, but does not require, certain enumerated matters to be discussed in closed session; and that even those closes-session deliberations are not “secret” or “confidential.”

Another item tangentially related to Frimark’s insurance sale also appears under the “City Attorney” segment of the meeting: the “Discussion of First Amendment to Easement and Operating Agreement for Uptown Phase III.”  That’s the legally-binding contract that then-mayor Frimark signed in January without City Council approval, or even the Council’s knowledge.

As can be seen from the City Attorney’s memo [pdf] on that point, he is accepting responsibility (a/k/a, “wearing the jacket”) for advising someone (Frimark?  The City Manager?  Other City Staff?) other than the Council members that Council approval of that amendment was not needed because it constituted a “minor modification” that could be approved by the City Manager.

A modification requiring a written amendment that was to be recorded against record title to the property doesn’t seem “minor” to us.  But even if it were, and even if it didn’t require City Council approval, we think the City Council should have been informed of it – even if it ended up listed among the items on the Consent Agenda. 

As it is, however, it looks – rightly or wrongly – like somebody was trying to pull a fast one on the City Council.  And that’s not a good thing under any circumstance.

The second item to which we direct your attention is the “first reading” of a proposed text amendment to Section 4.8 of the Zoning Ordinance that, if enacted, would politicize the zoning application process by allowing someone seeking relief from existing zoning standards effectively to end-run the Planning & Zoning Commission and seek support for that relief from an individual alderman – like is done in the City of Chicago. 

The fact that Chicago does it that way should be reason enough to give this idea a big thumb’s down.  So we’ll be watching with interest to see which aldermen, if any, look to change a process that appears, for the most part, to have worked well for many years.

To some, this may seem like much ado about nothing.  But it’s this kind of nitty gritty that determines how City government works, or doesn’t work – and for whom. 

2 comments so far

the city attorney’s explanation sounds incomplete and insincere.

The city attorney’s report isn’t the only “incomplete” and “insincere” writing I’ve seen.

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