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NORMAL TOWN COUNCIL

Watch now: Normal council rift continues, now with questions about ethics

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Normal Council Member Stan Nord during Monday's council meeting raised questions about spending funds for City Manager Pam Reece to be in a professional organization for Illinois city managers.

NORMAL — Tensions continue between a Normal Town Council member and the city manager, with the mayor now calling for a special session to discuss the matter.

Trustee Stan Nord says City Manager Pam Reece and town staff aren’t following the Illinois City Managers Association ethics code, specifically a section to "keep the community informed on local government affairs" and "encourage communication between the citizens and all local government officers." 

Nord told The Pantagraph on Tuesday that Reece and municipal staff have "discouraged communication" between council members and residents on several occasions. Nord also said he’s been told not to speak with businesses.   

Pam Reece mug

Reece 

The ethics issue was raised during a Monday council night meeting in which Nord asked about a $1,524 payment for Reece's membership renewal in the city manager group.

“I just wanted to be clear if the expectation is that our town manager should follow the ethics for the association that we’re paying the membership for,” he said in the Tuesday interview.

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Nord has repeatedly clashed over the years with Reece and council members on spending priorities and communication. He was elected in 2019 on a platform of eliminating wasteful spending, lowering taxes and improving transparency.

Reece was hired in 2018. The position oversees all town staff and operations. 

Stan Nord

Nord

In March, Nord filed a human resources complaint regarding Mayor Chris Koos, Reece and staff saying he wasn’t provided with the same information as other council members for meetings.

On Monday, when the city manager expense was raised, Nord asked: "Should we expect with this payment the ICMA code of ethics would be expected to be applied and used?"

Reece responded that if Nord or other council members had concern with her ethics, then the council should move into executive session to talk about it.

CHRIS KOOS - NEW

Koos 

"Yes, as a member of the ICMA, there is an obligatory code of ethics of which I'm very proud to have complied with," she said during the meeting, held remotely because of COVID.

Asked about the comments on Tuesday, Nord pointed to an incident in December 2019 during a Citizen Summit about the future of the town.

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Nord said Reece and town staff told residents who weren’t invited to partake in the focus group to not attend and that comments would not be forwarded to council members. Those who attended but were not invited were allowed to participate, but their comments were not included in the final document that council created out of the meeting.

A decades-long recycling drop-off program will continue after a year of amendments and negotiations.

Koos said that decision was because they had intended each council member to invite seven to 10 people, and that Nord posted an invitation on social media, inviting more than what was agreed upon.

Months later, a group also organized meetings regarding a zoning change to the One Normal Plaza Planned Unit Development, a multi-use residential and business project planned at Beech and Pine streets. 

The plaza has been the subject of various redevelopment proposals in recent years.

Normal Corporation Counsel Brian Day wrote a legal opinion saying planning commissioners should not "discuss pending matters outside of the public-hearing process.”

In that case, Nord said Reece and Day in emails discouraged councilmembers from going to the July 23 citizen meeting. Koos, Nord and Councilwoman Chemberly Cummings attended, but Cummings left to avoid a potential Open Meetings Act violation. 

"Because it was not our meeting, it was their meeting, and because of potential Open Meetings Act violations, two council members could go to that meeting," Koos said Tuesday.

Koos also said Nord has has "inserted himself" into the bidding process, sometimes reaching out to businesses that weren’t picked.

That issue eventually prompted Day, the attorney, to issue a legal opinion on April 26 saying that "decisions about bids should be based only on the information obtained through the bid process." 

Koos said the council will discuss Nord's concerns regarding Reece's ethics during an executive session at the next in-person council meeting. He defended Reece, who also serves on the Professional Conduct Committee of the city manager group.

"There's not even a hint of activity on behalf of City Manager Pamela Reece that would suggest that, and only one council member feels that way," Koos said in a Tuesday interview with The Pantagraph. "My purpose with the meeting is to put this to bed once and for all. 

"Pam Reece represents herself and her job with the highest ethical standard, and it's time to put this innuendo to bed."

Nord said he brought the questions up Monday because “if we are subscribed and assume these are tenets that are expected to be followed, then the town is not doing a good job at encouraging communication between citizens and local government officers.”

Reece declined to comment on the concerns raised and said it is a personnel matter.


Contact Sierra Henry at 309-820-3234. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_sierrahenry.

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