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Ex-code cop blasts city

David GiulianiMay 22, 2019

KANKAKEE — A former Kankakee code enforcement officer opposes the city’s effort to do away with requiring code officers to become certified, calling the city’s arguments “complete nonsense.”

On Friday, the former officer, Steve Arsenau, took to social media a day after a story about the certification issued appeared in the Daily Journal. The city is considering ending the requirement that officers pass a certification exam within a year of their employment.

In a Facebook post, Arsenau, who resigned May 10 after more than four years on the job, took exception to the city’s assertion that only 25 percent of the exam reflects the duties of code officers, known formally as property maintenance inspectors.

Arsenau called that argument “nothing but complete nonsense, put forth by the ‘code officer’ that has so far failed the exam twice.” He said the International Property Maintenance Code cannot be enforced without an understanding of the codes for life, public and fire safety and plumbing, mechanical and electrical requirements.

The test is open book and timed, Arsenau said, but officers need to study beforehand because there is not enough time to check everything in the study materials.

“The tests are 100 percent relevant to the daily job scope of code inspectors,” he said.

The city is negotiating with a union that includes its code enforcement officers, among employees in various city departments.

Last month, the Kankakee City Council voted down a union contract that dropped the requirement, so the agreement went back to negotiations.

Shortly after, Alderman Dave Crawford, R-3, expressed his opposition to ending the testing requirement. In response, James Ellexson, the city’s human resources director, sent a statement to the Daily Journal, in which he downplayed the need for the certification exam.

Asked to comment on Arsenau’s Facebook post, Ellexson declined in an email.

Arsenau said in a later Facebook post that he resigned because he “no longer wanted to risk my professional career” with a “mismanaged” code department.

In another post, Arsenau praised Crawford, whom Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong recently removed as chairman of the code committee, for his commitment to keeping the certification requirement. Crawford was the first official who publicly mentioned the effort to eliminate the requirement.

“The requirements should be amplified, not dumbed down,” Arsenau said.

Asked to comment further, Arsenau said he would not on the advice of his lawyer.

In his earlier interview, Ellexson said the union’s idea to do away with the certification requirement has validity.

He said “75 percent of the exam has nothing to do with the property maintenance inspectors and is not in this position’s scope of responsibility of duties.”

Crawford’s discussion of the certification issue drew a rebuke from the city attorney, Mike McGrath. The lawyer argued the council could censure a member who discussed closed-session topics in public in violation of the state’s open meetings law — an assertion that the attorney general’s office appears to contradict.

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