River Forest officials have tightened up the village’s ethics requirements, voting unanimously at the April 25 Village Board meeting to approve a series of amendments to the village’s ethics ordinance.

Setting the tone for the strengthening of the ordinance is the addition of a preamble expressing the village’s intent that its ethics ordinance is meant to meet or exceed ethics requirements in state and federal laws.

“I’m very pleased and proud to take this bold step,” Village President Cathy Adduci said.

She also thanked Peggy Daley, chair of the local ethics commission who attended the meeting virtually, for the work she and her two fellow commission members performed since being assigned the task in the fall.

In a memo to the village board, Village Administrator Brian Murphy noted that the ethics ordinance was last substantially amended in 2010. The commission gathered input from village staff members and Village Attorney Greg Smith during several meetings, he added.

In addition to adding the preamble, substantive changes include expanding the scope of the ethics ordinance to include village contractors, expanding the scope of prohibited sources to include lobbyists and agents, spouses and immediate family members of prohibited sources, changing the standard for prohibited political activities from “intentionally” to “knowingly,” expanding the scope of the gift ban to immediate family members of village covered individuals and expanding the scope of conflict of interest to include financial interests of immediate family members and an anti-nepotism clause.

Other changes add a duty to report violations of the ethics ordinance, allow the ethics commission to consider anonymous complaints, require the commission to keep complaints confidential to the extent permitted by law until and unless the commission determines that the complaint is supported by sufficient evidence and there are reasonable grounds to establish a violation of the ordinance, adding a new “screening” review step for complaints received by the commission, with a list of potential dismissal criteria and  allowing the village board to bar a contractor who violates the ethics ordinance.

The ethics commission, which is created under the ethics ordinance, is responsible for reviewing and acting on complaints regarding certain ethics ordinance violations. The village president and village board are responsible for reviewing and acting on other types of ethics ordinance violations.

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