The tribulations of Oak Brook Village President John Craig, which were revealed in a recent BGA investigation that dealt with his secondary role as liquor commissioner, demonstrate that the Chicago suburb is a candidate for major reform especially when it comes to determining how much power its top municipal leader should wield.
A weeks-long BGA investigation (which in an earlier report focused on multiple public pensions held by Craig and his wife) has prompted a series of recommendations that village leaders are strongly encouraged to follow. The adoption and adherence of these simple but powerful reforms will clarify the role of the village president and serve to make Oak Brook’s more open and responsive to its residents.
The BGA asks that Oak Brook village officials:
- Institute rules that ban elected officials and those pursuing elected office in Oak Brook from accepting or soliciting campaign contributions from businesses and individuals regulated by village government, including bars and restaurants.
- Immediately initiate an independent inquiry that explores how a $10,000 campaign donation from Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse to Village President John Craig originated and whether Craig has ever solicited or accepted free food or drink from restaurants and bars in Oak Brook.
- Separate liquor license duties from the village president’s job. Replace the post with a panel of appointees, or transfer responsibilities to an existing committee.
- Immediately initiate an independent inquiry that explores whether village code is being violated due to the exclusion of the village clerk from the liquor license process.
- Immediately initiate an independent inquiry that explores whether elected or appointed village officials steered or tried to steer municipal contracts to friends or political supporters. As part of this inquiry, all department heads should be interviewed.
- Adhere to the protocols of the manager/village president system of government that calls for the president to help set policy but empowers the village manager to oversee operations. The village president should not be directing heads of departments—including and especially the police chief—on a regular basis, and getting involved in day-to-day decision-making.
- Consider adopting a resolution that encourages village employees to speak out without fear of reprisal when they encounter suspected corruption, waste or inefficiency in Oak Brook’s municipal government.
- Institute a procedure that allows elected officials other than the village president to place items on the village board agenda.