By Paul Gorski
Last week, I described what I considered questionable ethics and the good old boys network being alive and well in “Meet John Doe: Caruana should have avoided police board conflicts of interest” Oct. 22-28 issue (http://rockrivertimes.com/2014/10/22/meet-john-doe-caruana-should-have-avoided-police-board-conflicts-of-interest/). I dug a little deeper and found more conflicts of interest.
I stated last week that Gary Caruana, the Republican candidate for Winnebago County Sheriff and Rockford police board member, should have turned down any election sponsorship or financial contributions from the Rockford police union or its leadership as long he is responsible for hearing the police union’s complaint, as a police board member, against Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson. I am not alleging any wrongdoing, but a conflict of interest exists, and Caruana should have avoided that conflict of interest.
Ian Linnabary also serves on the Rockford police board and appears to be working on the Caruana campaign. Therefore, we now have two police board members who have an interest in a campaign, a campaign that has received assistance from plaintiffs in a case that they preside over on the police board.
That does not bother me as much as Linnabary serving on the Rockford Park District Board while serving on the police board. What is the conflict there? Linnabary, as a Rockford Park District board member, oversees the independent Rockford Park District Park Police. As such, he could influence, for or against, intergovernmental agreements for police coverage between the city and the Park District. As a police board member, he could make recommendations to the mayor and city council on such agreements or recommend staffing adjustments to accommodate such agreements.
In legal jargon, Linnabary’s appointment to the Rockford police board and holding office as a Rockford Park District Board member might be considered incompatible offices. There may have already been a ruling on this, but I cannot see how they are not incompatible.
It does not take much for two offices to be incompatible. Typically, if you can influence a fiduciary or other agreement between two units of government because of your positions with each government, you cannot be a decision-maker in both of those units of government. Yes, there are exceptions.
I find this all a bit odd as the Rockford police board decided it was a conflict of interest to let State Rep. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, return to his position as a Rockford police officer. As a result, Cabello could not return to the Rockford police force. How is it a conflict of interest to let a state representative protect the public when not legislating, but not a conflict of interest for a police board member to supervise another local police force?
Again, I am questioning Caruana’s and Linnabary’s judgment. I am not accusing anyone of any improper actions. It just seems all too cozy and good old boy to me.
I will repeat what I stated last week: Unions, union members, former sheriffs, and voters have every right to support the candidate of their choice. Candidates are responsible for avoiding conflicts of interest and managing public perception.
In the interest of fairness and disclosure, I will tell you that groups or people on both sides of this election have supported and opposed me in my past elections. Oh, the joy that is politics. Moreover, while I often question the ethics of elected officials, boards and councils, I am not accustomed to questioning law enforcement. I respect law enforcement too much and even considered it as a career. I envisioned myself as a forensic scientist long before the current crop of investigative police shows became popular.
Legislators will be legislators, but I want my criminal justice managers — the state’s attorney, sheriff, circuit clerk and coroner — to be on the up and up.
Paul Gorski (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper. Read “Tech-Friendly” at http://rockrivertimes.com/?s=tech-friendly.
Posted Oct. 28, 2014