Accountability, civility focus of new ethics policy adopted by O’Fallon City Council

With an emphasis on accountability, the O’Fallon City Council has adopted a code of ethics that addresses conduct, fairness, and civility.

“The residents and businesses of O’Fallon are entitled to have fair, ethical, and accountable local government. City officials shall conduct themselves to bring credit upon the organization and the community,” so reads the resolution on rules of order and procedure.

Approved at the Sept. 5 council meeting, it also included the Illinois Municipal League civility pledge, which states:“In the interest of civility, I pledge to promote civility by listening, being respectful to others, acknowledging that we are striving to support and improve our community and understanding that we each may have different ideas for achieving that objective.”

This action is a result of a May 22 council retreat and a July 31 Committee of the Whole meetings where aldermen discussed methods to improve how meetings are conducted for transparency and decision-making.

City Administrator Walter Denton and Assistant City Administrator Grant Litteken gathered all the information in a report that is available to the public, City Council Retreat Executive Summary.

Some of the changes include the council modifying the seating arrangement at committee meetings so that residents know who is on each committee. Signs are also mounted to notify residents which committee is meeting.

At the beginning of each council and committee meeting, there will be an explanation on the video screen describing the format of the meeting and how residents can participate. The mayor or committee chair will read a statement at the beginning of each meeting explaining the format.

The procedures address improved communication, such as “the council has an obligation to consider and address the questions coming before it in an efficient and effective manner, and to respectfully consider the opinions of the city’s citizens and other council members.”

When preparing for council meetings, aldermen should address direct questions ahead of time to Denton and Litteken so that the desired information can be provided at the council or committee meeting.

“It is the responsibility of Council members to publicly share substantive information that is relevant to a matter under consideration that they have received from sources outside of the public decision-making process with all other council members and the public prior to taking action on the matter,” it states.

A council member shall not direct staff to initiate any action, change a course of action, or prepare any report, nor initiate any project or study without a majority approval of the council.

Council members are asked to direct routine inquiries to department heads, not other employees. They should not attempt to pressure or influence discussions, recommendations, workloads, schedules, or department priorities absent the approval of a council majority.

Any concerns about city employees should be directed privately to the city administrator. They are not to reprimand employees directly or communicate their concerns with others.

The document also addresses political support, handling litigation, and confidential information.

As for ethical standards, “council members shall work for the common good of the people of O’Fallon and not for any private or personal interest. Council members must endeavor to treat all members of the public and issues before them in a fair and equitable manner.”

Upon election and re-election, aldermen will be asked to sign a Personal Code of Ethics Statement.

For impartiality, that includes being prohibited from using their official positions to influence government decisions in which they have a financial interest or where they have an organizational responsibility or a personal relationship that would present a conflict of interest under applicable state law.

They must file annual written disclosures of their economic interests. And they cannot take advantage of services or opportunities for personal gain, nor use public resources not available to the public (city staff time, equipment, supplies, facilities).

Aldermen’s relatives cannot be employed full-time with the city (blood or marriage within the second degree).

Council Action

In other action, the council OK’d a pre-annexation agreement with SJG Land Investment for 55.6 acres at 1206 Scott Troy Road, which is currently zoned rural residential, for 41 single-family homes to be known as The Preserves. It is currently 1.5 miles from city limits but if the property becomes contiguous, then it could be annexed.

The sewer lining program in Wards 1, 6 and 7 received a boost with $831,652.50 approved for work to be done by Visu-Sewer of Missouri.

New Hotel

SpringHill Suites by Marriot received final approval and will be built on a 2.84-acre tract located at the northeast corner of North Green Mount Road and West U.S. Highway 50.

The new 107-room, 5-story hotel will be surrounded by offices, retail and services -- Eagle condominiums and commercial center to the north; residences and Scott Credit Union to the east; CVS Pharmacy, Sonic Drive-In, Denny’s, and Harley Davidson to the south; and Carrolton Bank, First Bank, and Advance Title Solutions to the west.

SpringHill will offer mostly one-bedroom rooms, with some double rooms available, and have an outdoor swimming pool, meeting spaces, and a limited fitness center.

Aldermen voting no were Ross Rosenberg and Tom Vorce, with Alderman Aaron Hudson abstaining.

Audio-Visual Upgrade

Mayor Herb Roach announced that the city’s aging audio-visual equipment will be upgraded, which means the way residents can view and participate in public meetings.

“We should be up and running on the new equipment by our Oct. 2 city council meeting,” he said.

On-demand and streaming viewing through Zoom, You Tube, Facebook, and the city’s website will be available. But the city will no longer broadcast its meetings through AT&T and Spectrum after the Sept. 18 council meeting.

Labor Agreement

After an executive session, the council approved a contract with the O’Fallon Local 2817-1 American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Labor Council covering rates of pay, wages, hours of employment and other conditions for the EMS personnel. They had been in negotiations since the previous contract expired on April 30, and the union agreed to terms Aug. 25.