Why Leaders Voted against Ethics Rules

Article excerpt

Byline: Russell Lissau Daily Herald Staff Writer

More than eight months after a state-established deadline passed, the Mundelein High School board has adopted state-mandated ethics regulations.

The rules, based on reforms approved by the General Assembly in 2003, regulate ethical conduct, political activities and the acceptance of gifts by politicians and employees.

The school board's vote was not unanimous, however, even though the General Assembly and Illinois attorney general agree every government agency must have such a policy on the books. Board President Thomas M.P. Hannigan and Vice President Beth Beutlich voted against the proposal after a long debate Tuesday night.

Beutlich called the rules "too vague," while Hannigan said the restrictions counter American free-speech rights.

"I believe it's unconstitutional," he said.

Although other board members also had questions, a five-member majority approved the restrictions. Because the rules were ordered by the state, they didn't have much of a choice.

For that reason, board member Vicky Kennedy was upset about the two negative votes.

"Regardless of what your feelings are about the ordinance, it is state-mandated. It is law," Kennedy said Wednesday. "Why can't we just follow the law and do what we're supposed to do?"

The new statewide ethics legislation applies to all government agencies, regardless of size or area of responsibility. Boards were supposed to approve their own versions of the rules by May 19, 2004.

Assistant Superintendent Sally Pilcher attributed Mundelein High's delay to the board's ongoing review of district policies, a project it's working on with a representative from the Illinois Association of School Boards.

"We contracted with (the association) to assure that we are in compliance. We are following their procedures and using their language," Pilcher said. …