Park Forest is hoping to eliminate any possibility of improper hires.
The newly passed amendment adds anti-nepotism language to an ordinance already on the books that outlines responsibilities of the Village Manager. In amending the ordinance, Village officials looked to add on to a longstanding practice of hiring based on “merit and fitness” with more stringent language to eliminate incorrect interpretation and make more clear the Village's position on nepotism.
“As Village Manager, I’ve hung my hat on the Illinois City Manager’s Association’s code of ethics where professional village managers want to avoid any appearance of impropriety,” Village Manager Tom Mick said. “The Village has prided itself in being what I call a meritocracy where we hire people for what they know and not who they know. This approach is clearly in the best interests of Park Forest residents and the employees who work for the Village."
Park Forest, which operates under a council-manager form of government, with elected officials setting policy and the village manager overseeing the day-to-day operation, hopes to eliminate the ability of anyone to make or encourage preferential hires.
“Every organization has its own culture. Park Forest’s decades-long culture of qualifications-based hiring and promotions is the standard for how the Village goes about its business. The new policy simply codifies what has already been the practice," Mick said.
Following the passing of the ordinance amendment on Jan. 21, Park Forest Mayor John Ostenburg congratulated board members on what he called "a giant step."
"Most municipalities do not take action of this form, codified as an ordinance. It's a very, in my mind, courageous move -- and admirable move -- on the part of this board to put this into a codified form where if there's any violation it's actually an ordinance violation which is punishable like any other ordinance violations are," Ostenburg said.
"It sends a message to our community that the people employed in our Village are employed for what it is that they bring to their jobs. Not because of who they know. Not because of who they are related to or anything of the sort."