Is Mayor Kris Povlsen turning a new page in DeKalb municipal governance? Is he raising the bar on ethics to eliminate any appearance of conflict of interest among the administrative, council, commissions, committees and stakeholder members of the City of DeKalb?
He has certainly demonstrated a very high standard of ethics in his decision to remove John Guio as chair of the plan commission. Guio’s wife is on the board of Hope Haven, an agency that serves the area’s homeless population. She is a retired city employee. The agency is petitioning the City of DeKalb for approval of variances to its current zoning to allow expansion of its facilities. According to reports Guio deliberated for some time as to whether he should vote on the matter when it came before the plan commission because of his wife’s affiliation with Hope Haven. He voted cautioning that his vote may be negated.
The mayor saw the infraction as serious enough to warrant Guio’s removal.
Raising the ethics bar could not have come at a better time for DeKalb residents and taxpayers.
Roughly $1.6 million in property tax dollars were raised over the past few years in large part due to a couple of library tax levy increases that were illegally decided in closed session meetings in which no minutes are available to the public.
This money was spent (if the early October, 2010 closing goes through as planned) on a real estate transaction that was approved in closed session meetings. After their closed session actions were discovered the library board moved quickly and with no explanation to ratify the action in public session. The agenda for that meeting did not allow public comment until after the transaction was ratified.
The money raised and spent by the improperly approved property tax levy increases roughly equals the annual library budget.
Demolition costs required by this plan would likely come from TIF. The buyer and seller of the proposed library site each have a seat on the board of directors of ReNew DeKalb which by action administers the TIF program in the downtown area.
Coincidentally (or not), staff is recommending the City of DeKalb sell additional debt bonds to finance a one-stop government center in downtown DeKalb. The city council will need to approve these plans in short order. Deadlines are approaching this December to repay the Building Anticipation Notes (BANs) taken out and to participate in Build America Bonds (BABs).
Architects from the firm of Nagle Hartray will present a Civic Square Master Plan that encompasses a Police Station, Public Library, and shared building for City Hall and School District Administration. The square also includes green space and some private development.
In order for this project to be at a stage where the city council could consider it as an action item there must have been a great deal of planning.
The architect, Nagle Hartray, has been meeting, in closed sessions, with the library board.
How much architect/consulting fees have accumulated to this point, including the library’s foray and the Civic Square Master Plan? When were these expenses approved and by who? Who attended what meetings and are published agendas and minutes available? Were these meetings open, closed or among private “stakeholders?”
Hopefully, Mayor Povlsen really steps up to demand higher standards of ethics at City Hall. If a commission chair is removed for voting on plans to expand a facility for the homeless because his wife serves on a volunteer board then surely a library board president who presided over numerous violations of the Open Meetings Act and then failed to attend a near mandatory OMA workshop must go.
The mayor should suspend the pending real estate transaction until full public disclosure of ongoing investigations and potential litigation of the library board’s action. If the library board balks then it should be replaced and the mayor (and council) has such authority.
You go, Kris!