By Louise Scott, Gary Crusader
LaVetta Sparks-Wade, D-6th Councilwoman believes there should be a restriction to appointments of councilmember’s relatives to city boards or commissions. She said she is concerned that nepotism is playing a role in what the city council is doing in various boards and organizations.
Councilwoman Sparks-Wade said the council would be asking for disclosure and making sure that if the law is passed it will be enforced.
Appointees that would be affected by the ordinance if passed would be 3rd District Councilwoman Mary Brown’s husband Oliver Gilliam who is an appointee to the City’s Police Commission and Council President Ron Brewer, who sits on the Planning Commission representing the Council. She said if the law is passed it would affect them.
She said, “I campaigned on openness and transparency. My own personal beliefs are that this appears unjust and unfair in the eyes of the people and should be addressed. For such a long time nepotism and cronyism has been frowned upon by the electorate. I just want to make sure that this new council brings about the change we campaigned about.”
Sparks-Wade said she feels she has the support from enough of her councilmembers to pass this law because they have what’s best for the city of Gary at heart and this will be an opportunity for other people to serve.
The Council’s newest member Councilman-at-Large Herbert Smith said he agreed with the ordinance but disagreed with the timing and the subsequent removal of people already serving.
He said, “The original ordinance said effective upon passage and if you are a relative we are going to cut your time short and remove you. What I did was checked it out and talked to several attorneys independently and they told me if you remove those serving in the middle of their term, it could trigger lawsuits against the city. Why would we want to do that? It’s not worth it. Allow them to finish out their terms then apply the ordinance. That makes sense. That’s why I changed my vote for further research.”
During Tuesday’s council meeting an amendment to the ordinance to make it effective would have been as of May 1 but it failed before the ordinance had a chance. Councilmembers who voted no to the amendment were Mary Brown, Linda Barnes-Caldwell, Michael Protho, Herb Smith and President Ron Brewer. The ordinance went back to committee.
The ordinance states that the appointments to the boards and commissions should have three qualifications to be able to sit on a board or an appointment from the Gary Common Council. It was then that Councilwoman Mary Brown said it was her understanding that the ordinance was going to be deferred back to committee for additional discussion and not that it would be amended on the floor. Councilwoman Atty. Ragen Hatcher told President Brewer that Councilwoman Sparks-Wade indicated to her that she wanted the ordinance to go back to committee. Councilwoman Atty. Hatcher said she was going to move that the ordinance go back to the Ways and Means Committee for further discussion. The meeting is scheduled for March 10 at 5 p.m.