The Village of Oak Park announced Monday it fired a parking enforcement officer amid more than a dozen cases of suspected misconduct.
The village will conduct an administrative review of the entire Parking Division as a result of the firing.
“It appeared there may have been a crime committed,” Village Manager Tom Barwin said of the employee, who was arrested last Thursday. The arrest followed a tip to police that the employee allegedly accepted $800 in cash to remove a “Denver boot” from a car owned by a person with more than 20 unpaid parking violations. The cash never found its way to village coffers, Barwin said.
The employee was not formally charged and was released pending further investigation. Barwin said the village has to review more than a dozen other incidents of alleged misconduct before placing formal charges.
The village would not name the employee, but multiple village hall sources confirmed that Keith Kotero was the employee fired.
Kotero was fired after he did not appear at a hearing scheduled after the arrest. “This behavior gave me no choice other than to terminate employment,” Barwin said in a press release.
The village is calling on citizens with any evidence of wrongdoing in parking regulations administration to contact Police Commander Clement Harbor at 358-5568.
A three-member panel will be appointed this week, with former Police Chief Joe Mendrick as the likely chair, to conduct “a thorough review of … all aspects of [Parking Division] operations, including managerial oversight of employees, distribution of authority and accounting checks and balances.”
Barwin will also ask the village board to ask the Transportation Commission to conduct a public meeting seeking feedback on parking enforcement and administration.
“How we administer programs can have a huge impact on public perception and even compliance,” Barwin said in the statement. “Perhaps by allowing residents to share their views and experiences, we can come up with ways to improve how we do business.”
Barwin said he has planned to look at parking since shortly after his arrival in Oak Park in August.
“When you arrive in Oak Park you quickly identify or learn of some of the more prominent issues and parking falls under that category,” he said. Mendrick already has begun looking at the Parking Division on how to “streamline and manage [it] better,” Barwin said. Some areas of review have included customer service and getting computers to interface with state computers.
Barwin expects a report with recommendations back from the committee within 30 days.
The village manager admitted that a possible outcome of the review will be putting control of parking under police command.
“There is some thought along those lines because parking used to be” under police control, Barwin said. “There may be some logic there.”
Processing tickets, record keeping and uniformed personnel interacting with the public are some of the elements parking enforcement shares with police.
One village official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that it is quite likely that the parking enforcement operation will be brought under police department supervision as a part of the review.
Barwin said it was premature to comment Tuesday on whether Parking Division jobs are on the line because of the review.
He said the person who gave Kotero the $800 in cash has not been charged because the circumstances under which the money was given are unknown.
In the village statement, Barwin says allegations of wrongdoing must be dealt with “fairly, but swiftly. … It is unfortunate and difficult for us all if an individual employee chooses to go down the wrong path. But it should not reflect negatively on the entire organization.”