Committee Approves Renewal of Elmhurst Consultants' Contracts
Burden falls on contractors to disclose potential conflicts, committee members say.
Despite one alderman's belief that her issues about consultant contract renewals were not addressed, the Finance Committee on Monday recommended that the city renew the contracts of Charles Van Slyke and Ken Bartels.
First Ward Alderman Paula Pezza, who is not a member of the Finance Committee, told the committee she has “serious concern” about the two consultants and their relationships with entities other than the city.
But on Monday, the committee and staff agreed that language in the contracts puts the burden on the consultants to disclose any relationship that might conflict with their work with the city.
Van Slyke specializes in real estate matters and has helped staff with property issues related to redevelopment. But questions have been raised about his service on the DuPage County Board of Review, which handles property tax appeals from businesses and individual homeowners. And, he is listed as an associate with former Elmhurst City Manager Tom Borchert's municipal-issues consulting firm.
Another Elmhurst consultant, Ken Bartels, also works for Borchert's firm. For the city, Bartels is primarily focused on economic development.
If approved by the full City Council, Van Slyke will earn $100 per hour and will work no more than 900 hours per year for the city. Bartels' rate will be $90 per hour, and his hours will be capped at 500 per year. Both contracts are for three years.
Pezza submitted a list of questions to the committee earlier this month. Along with her questions about the contractors' relationships with Borchert and the County Board of Review, she wondered who on the city staff reviews consultant invoices and why the city hasn't considered hiring staff to perform the consultants' work.
Fifth Ward Alderman Scott Levin noted that by definition, independent contractors are free to perform work for other companies.
Fourth Ward Alderman Kevin York added that conflicts of interest can always arise, but that “you identify it and you decide who you are serving.”
“We have to have at least a little bit of trust in the folks we hire,” he said.
Finance Committee Chairman and Fourth Ward Alderman Stephen Hipskind clarified that Van Slyke has not actually done any work as of yet for Borchert's firm.
Still, Pezza does not approve of the appearance of a conflict of interest, especially since Van Slyke worked on a recent property issue for the city and Borchert's company represented the property owner in that issue.
The Finance Committee's recommendation is headed to the full City Council for approval.