AP NEWS

Ex-mayor bypasses legal advice

May 4, 2019

BRADLEY — At his last meeting, Bradley’s former mayor disregarded advice from the village’s attorney and delayed the swearing in of new trustees, allowing the old board to approve a controversial contract.

If then-Mayor Bruce Adams followed this advice last week, the board would likely have rejected a five-year agreement with the area tourism agency, which Adams supported and the new board majority opposes.

Four days before the April 22 meeting, the law firm of village attorney Jeff Taylor issued an opinion recommending the board swear in newly elected members at the beginning of the meeting.

State law says election winners should be sworn in at the first meeting after voting results are certified. But it is silent at what point in the meeting the swearing-in should take place.

Still, the law firm contends the apparent intent of the law is that newly elected members swear in at the beginning of the meeting. Doing otherwise, the firm said, might subject the old board’s actions to challenge.

On the day the opinion was issued, the board’s staff developed the agenda with the swearing-in ceremony at the start. After Adams returned from vacation the next day, he moved it to the end. In so doing, he said in an interview this week, he followed a tradition going back to the 1980s.

Adams noted the legal opinion said state law was silent about when the swearing-in should take place in the meeting.

“The mayor is in charge of setting the agenda, and that is exactly what I did,” Adams said. “It was all done legally.”

He said state law should be more precise in its language on when swearing-in ceremonies are supposed to take place.

Mike Watson, who was appointed mayor Thursday, said Adams should have followed the legal opinion.

“Absolutely, board members should have been sworn in at the beginning,” he said.

Bradley’s practice seems to be the rule, rather than the exception. Many other local government bodies hold swearing-in ceremonies later in meetings.

In a meeting this week, the new Bradley board voted unanimously to rescind the contract with the Kankakee County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the very same agreement the old board approved the previous week before the swearing-in was held. The bureau’s supporters argue the decision has no effect, saying it’s a signed contract that binds Bradley for the next five years.

Watson, however, said the contract was invalid because the new members weren’t sworn in yet.

The bureau is funded by a 5 percent countywide hotel tax, with the money going to the county treasurer’s office, which then gives it to the tourism bureau.

The money generated in Bradley, which has most of the area’s hotels, could put the tourism agency in jeopardy if the new board’s action stands.

The county has not decided how to handle the money in light of the Bradley dispute.