By Paul Gorski
Cherry Valley Village President James Claeyssen should resign his position as Cherry Valley’s appointed budget officer.
Brandon Reid reports in “Attorney General Opinions Bureau: Cherry Valley village president should not also serve as budget director,” from the Jan. 14-20 edition, that the “simultaneous holding of the village’s budget director position has been deemed incompatible by the Opinions Bureau of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.” “Incompatible” means you should not hold both offices at the same time.
To recap, Claeyssen and Cherry Valley’s board members have routinely appointed Claeyssen to fill the staff position of “budget officer,” a position entitled to compensation and who, according to Cherry Valley’s ordinances, serves “at the pleasure of the village president.” So, Claeyssen appoints himself budget officer and serves that office at his own whim. That just screams conflict of interest.
I am not aware of any wrongdoing by Claeyssen, and I do not have any personal gripes with him. I have enjoyed the few times we have chatted. However, appointing yourself as budget officer, an office designed to review the financial transactions of the village and board, is just bad form. Even if it were not against the law to hold both positions, I’d prefer a budget director a bit more independent from the board.
Cherry Valley’s village board could, by local ordinance, add the budget officer duties to the president’s duties, negating the need for the budget officer position. (See 65 ILCS 5/3.1-35-5: “The mayor or president shall perform all the duties which are prescribed by law, including ordinances.”) The board could then modify the president’s compensation if the board felt the president’s additional duties warranted a change.
Again, I am not accusing Claeyssen or the board of any wrongdoing, other than not being aware of the apparent conflict of interest. For that, I blame their legal counsel, who should have done a better job of advising the board on this matter. There is no ambiguity here — elected officials typically cannot appoint themselves to positions where they would report to themselves. Seems like common sense to me.
In this age of “transforming” the Rockford region, I encourage State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato (D) and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office to strongly encourage Claeyssen to step down from the budget officer’s position. We need to do everything we can to strengthen the public’s trust in local government if we are going to grow and improve our local communities.
I encourage Cherry Valley residents to share their opinions on this matter with their village officials. Call the village at (815) 332-3441 or find more contact information, including email addresses, at: http://www.cherryvalley.org/index.php/contact-us.
Read Brandon Reid’s original article online at: http://rockrivertimes.com/2015/01/14/attorney-general-opinions-bureau-cherry-valley-village-president-should-not-also-serve-as-budget-director/.
Disclosure: I am not a resident of Cherry Valley, but I am a resident of Cherry Valley Township, and I serve as a Cherry Valley Township Trustee, a separate unit of government.
Paul Gorski (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper.
From the Jan. 21-27, 2015, issue