BLOOMINGTON -- The city of Bloomington’s voluntary code of conduct is getting new attention following recent incidents of questionable behavior by local elected officials.
New Aldermen Mboka Mwilambwe, Ward 3, and Rob Fazzini, Ward 8, recently signed the code, bringing the total to seven of the 10 council members.
Meanwhile, Mayor Steve Stockton is proposing new council rules and meeting procedures to shorten council meetings that include a separate, four-point code of conduct for aldermen during meetings. The council could discuss the mayor’s proposals as early as June 13.
Alderman Jim Fruin, Ward 9, introduced a 13-point code of conduct in 2009 but after a series of heated discussions, the council declined to vote on it. Instead it has become a voluntary document.
“No one is perfect but this tells the community and it reminds us as elected officials what we will do and who we want to be,” Fruin said.
Previously Fruin, Stockton and Bernard Anderson, Ward 1, Jennifer McDade, Ward 5 and Karen Schmidt, Ward 6, signed it. David Sage, Ward 2; Judy Stearns, Ward 4, and Steven Purcell, Ward 7, have not.
Stearns disagrees with the point that says council members should refrain from “verbal criticism upon the character, motives, ethics, or morals of members of the City Council, staff, or public.”
“I believe they have the right to criticize if they choose to, and certainly some have,” Stearns said. “Thus, they have broken the code they signed, so where is the ethics in that?”
Purcell suggested the seven council members are thumbing their noses at the code by delaying the seating of Stearns for a second term because of a question of whether she owed the city property taxes. The city is waiting for a second opinion from an outside attorney.
“People can read anything they want to into this document,” Fruin said.
McLean County Board Chairman Matt Sorensen said he is frustrated that the County Board’s own rules governing members’ behavior are not enforceable.
“There is no recourse, only peer pressure to follow the rules,” Sorensen said.
Recently, Bob Nuckolls was removed from the County Board after pleading guilty to aggravated stalking and Ben Owens resigned as the board’s vice chairman over multiple citations for driving on a suspended license.
The town of Normal does not have a code for its council members. Mayor Chris Koos said one is unnecessary because Normal council members do a good job of policing themselves.