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Proviso Probe

Monday, October 10, 2005

ETHICS, Harmon responds to Nyberg request [FP]

I received the following letter from State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).
October 4, 2005

Thank you for sending me a copy of your recent letter to Representative Yarbrough regarding municipal ethics ordinances. After our earlier conversation, I asked our staff to research the issue.

First, the source of the draft ordinance used by many municipalities is not the Illinois General Assembly but rather the Illinois Attorney General. In the process of reviewing your concerns, our staff did not encounter evidence of any “bad faith” use of the punitive clauses of such ordinances. Moreover, it does not appear that any penalties have ever been imposed for Illinois, nor is there evidence that any penalties have been threatened. Absent any demonstrable problem or misapplication of the law, I do not see a legislative groundswell to change existing law or create new law.

I appreciate your input on this issue. If you have any further questions, please contact me at (708) 848-2002.

Sincerely,

Don Harmon

Cc: The Honorable Karen Yarbrough

I first left a message at Sen. Don Harmon’s office on this issue. He returned my call within 24 hours. He understood my point which was mildly complicated. He initiated the process of researching my concerns based on the phone call without me having to write a letter.

Harmon provided the highest level of constituent service I’ve seen from an elected official. The others that had impressed me were Congressman John Porter and the late Senator Paul Simon.

The second paragraph of the letter I mostly disagree with. However, I’d rather have Harmon disagree with me than have certain less-than-bright legislators agree with me.

First, Harmon has pointed me to another avenue of addressing the problem. The Attorney General can fix her mistake. Harmon is right that the problem was caused by the AG, not the legislature.

Second, many of the local legislators lack the skills to take an issue from an idea to a law without party leadership or interest groups holding their hands through the process. What use is an ally without the skills to help?

Since Harmon is a bright and seemingly fair-minded guy, if I care enough about this issue, I can appeal his initial decision. He’ll probably expect me to contact the AG first and show significant support within the community. But those aren’t unreasonable expectations.

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