When elected officials have a conflict of interest – and even when there is only the strong appearance of a conflict of interest – they need to recuse themselves from deliberation and voting. Recusal needs to happen early. And there should be no question in voters’ minds about whether it has happened.
River Forest trustee Catherine Adduci failed to meet those standards as the village board began considering a proposed contract with a company named RedSpeed, which specializes in red-light camera technology.
The problem is that her husband, Al Ronan, a former state representative and high-profile lobbyist, is representing the firm. Adduci and Ronan are separated, but not divorced. There aren’t too many who would fail to recognize this association as a clear conflict of interest, but Adduci managed to sit, albeit silently, through a village board meeting on June 22 when the RedSpeed matter was first brought before the board for consideration. Action was then taken, based on a consensus, to craft a contract and draft ordinances.
Only when pressed several weeks later, did Village President John Rigas say he had received a letter from Adduci recusing herself – a full week after the meeting. Not good enough. We still haven’t heard Adduci declare herself on the matter, so we don’t know for sure. But even if she has recused herself, she didn’t do it early enough.
That’s bad form and doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the transparency of local government. We’re still waiting for a clear statement – in public.
Slow down on RedSpeed
And speaking of not inspiring confidence, any measure being promoted to local governments by Al Ronan and Greg Zito – two notorious wheeler-dealers – bears looking at long and carefully. Ronan in particular has run afoul of the law in recent years, so we’re suspicious of anything he’s selling.
We’ve always seen red-light cameras as a solution in search of a problem. Now, they also seem like a solution in search of revenue, which is how RedSpeed has been presenting its case to River Forest. Oak Park has been toying with this technology as well and, given the craziness of trying to drive in this village, that makes us even more concerned.
Police push this proposal on the grounds that it will improve safety, but the evidence to support this is not strong. We believe it would cause even more accidents as nervous drivers react erratically for fear of getting a $100 ticket.
And now we hear the next step Ronan is pushing is cameras to enforce speed laws. People are already reluctant to shop in Oak Park because of the parking meter situation. We can’t imagine how they’re going to react if shoppers start getting $100 tickets for turning right on red and going 2 miles an hour over the speed limit.
This is not a decision that should be made on the basis of squeezing more revenue out of already frustrated taxpayers. And the other reasons don’t seem compelling enough to make such a significant investment.
At the very least, the two villages should think long and hard – and publicly – about this before taking any other steps forward.