A political advertisement featuring the mayor and a village employee has raised concerns that Mayor Anthony Calderone violated at least the spirit of Forest Park’s ethics ordinance.
The ad, which was published in the Feb. 7 issue of the Review, includes a photograph of Calderone looking over a set of blueprints with Mike Boyle, the director of the Department of Public Health and Safety. According to the village’s ordinance on ethical behavior, “No officer or employee shall intentionally use any property or resources of the village in connection with any prohibited political activity.”
Both Boyle and Calderone readily admit to staging the photograph during normal working hours, but denied that anything inappropriate occurred.
“Mike Boyle was not induced, coerced or promised anything of value, material or otherwise,” Calderone said. “Mike Boyle does not live in Forest Park so there is no quid pro quo in terms of him or me receiving any favors. He cannot vote for me. Any notion of some type of unethical activity taking place is outlandish and I think it is just a political ploy to tarnish my reputation.”
Employees are not prohibited from campaigning for various candidates, so long as their participation is voluntary, according to the ordinance. Also, any campaign work cannot be supported by municipal resources.
Commissioner and mayoral candidate Patrick Doolin said it’s clear the advertisement is at least toeing the line. Doolin expressed his concern to Village Administrator Mike Sturino, who serves as the village’s ethics advisor, and was rebuffed.
“The spirit of the ordinance is to keep employees, day-to-day activities, and the actual government out of political campaigns,” Doolin said. “(Calderone) could have just as easily staged this photograph with a friend, campaign worker, or volunteer, done it at his office down at Illinois Alarm and there is no issue. However, he chose to use his position as mayor to garner political gain. It’s wrong.”
Sturino said he denied Doolin’s argument in part because there doesn’t appear to be any violation. That a department head would review information with the mayor is a “normal activity,” Sturino said.
Further, Sturino said Doolin has not filed a formal complaint and without such, there’s no reason for him to investigate.
“I have been informed by the ethics advisor that there is no basis and if I do file a complaint I could be fined,” Doolin said.
The village’s ethics ordinance states that the ethics commission may fine someone between $1,001 and $5,000 for filing a frivolous complaint.
Though they acknowledged posing for the photo, Boyle and Calderone both said that the department head had no knowledge of what the image would be used for. Calderone said he enlisted a photographer to follow him around for six hours and snap photos of him to be used in campaign literature and paid political advertisements. Had he known, Boyle said he likely would have checked to see if it was appropriate for him to appear in the advertisement. Boyle, however, would not comment on whether the ad is unethical.
“I suppose that’s in the eye of the beholder,” Boyle said. “People are going to judge that for themselves.”