City of Elgin: Ordinance enforcement reinstated

Written by Trish Yerges, The Observer October 15, 2012 01:47 pm

ELGIN — The city council this week unanimously decided to reinstate its ordinance enforcement effective immediately. The council’s safety committee will meet to draft a job description for the officer, Mike Little, and allow the council to discuss it at the next meeting. 

Councilor Allan Duffy motioned to reinstate the ordinance enforcement. He also proposed that a work session be scheduled to draft a copy of job duties for this hired city employee position, something that had not been done prior to Little’s start date of July 2.

Duffy said the city faces an unfamiliar situation because normally city ordinance enforcement falls under the supervision of the local police department, but since Elgin has contracted with the Union County Sheriff’s Department and there is no provision for city ordinance enforcement in that contract, the city council must assume that supervisory role through its  safety committee.

The safety committee is composed of councilors Dick Miller and Allan Duffy. Duffy proposed that city recorder/administrator Terrie Richards also act along with the safety committee because she is in contact with Little and residents more often than any of the councilors. Richards agreed to act in that capacity if the council so moved.

A discussion ensued about the ordinance officer’s job duties. Councilor Miller had researched the job descriptions of city ordinance officers in three other cities and combined elements of their documents into a rough draft to facilitate an initial discussion by the council.

Councilor Gidget Sannar said she wanted to see the hours mentioned in this draft. As the draft seemed to be missing some other necessary things such as job equipment, the council agreed to schedule a work session to work out the finer details. 

Council President Brent Linville stated that he would like Little to be equipped with a camera/recorder, and that this equipment should be mentioned in the job description. This tool would help Little in evaluating his own public relations performance. It will also record the contact and reveal facts that would aid in resolving any future community relations complaints. Residents will be advised immediately that their conversation is being recorded.

“That way when he comes (to the homeowner’s door), he will tell the resident you are being recorded,” said Linville. “He will say, this is who I am, this is what I’m here for and this is the ordinance that you’re in violation of that needs to be cleaned up. That way he can review those (recordings) if there is a problem, and it can be downloaded to a computer and the safety committee and others can get involved and go over that. Little wants that as much as we want him to have that as a learning tool.”

The city’s ordinance enforcement had come under some criticism in the past month by city residents who had contact with Little over ordinance violations and who later contacted the city office, stating that Little had intimidated them or had unjustly targeted them.

“I’ve talked to Mike a couple of times and he has in no way, shape or form felt threatened on any of the things that he’s done,” said Linville. “People have been upset with him. They got caught and they did it, and most of them complied.”

Little’s activity report in August showed 57 contacts, most of which were quickly complied with. There was only one citation that went to the municipal court. That resident also complied sufficiently to please the court so no guilty judgment was rendered in that case.

“Mike is not targeting anyone,” said Richards. “He is one of the most honest persons I know.”

Little will resume his duties immediately, following up on cases that were initiated in early September but not completed. More information on the ordinance officer’s job description will be discussed at the next council meeting.