Though I’m generally not one to start spouting biblical entreaties, the greater quote from which I derived that title is:
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Or, in the case of City Councilman Corey Dixon, you cannot concurrently serve the people of Elgin and the Kane County Sheriff’s Office, because that blitheringly clear conflict of interest cannot be morally or ethically resolved.
There are times the Bible is dead on. We just won’t talk about the whole wearing polyester will sending you straight to hell thing.
Is it a legal conflict, meaning could a Kane County city councilman toiling as the Sheriff’s “Senior Assistant Director of Administration” be removed from the elected office by due process? No! There are only two cases where that kind of thing could happen.
The first is, you cannot hold an elected office that determines the salary of another elected or public office. So, a Kane County Board member would be prohibited from working as a Kane County employee because the Board sets those salaries by virtue of approving the budget.
The second issue is, like the whole two masters thing, you cannot serve the same constituency twice. Thus, an Elgin city councilman cannot also serve as a U-46 board member because those bodies have unresolvable interests. As Illinois State Board of Elections lead counsel, Ken Menzel, explained, “You cannot seek the best deal for the city and the best deal for the school board because those goals are frequently in conflict.”
But what makes this so much worse than those possibilities is, as I’m prone to saying, the appearance of impropriety is always far worse than any actual impropriety, and that’s going to dog Corey Dixon for the rest of, what will likely be, his only Elgin City Council term.
The most obvious disconnect is, since the people of Kane County are paying his $72,000 salary, Dixon will have to recuse himself from any vote involving a Kane County office. And that’s a really big deal. Having covered Elgin and the County Board for 13 long years, there are innumerable intergovernmental agreements between them requiring regular votes on both sides.
Not only that, but the Sheriff provides SWAT, drug task force, and many more services to the entire county. They apply for grants and underwrite programs that benefit the citizens of Elgin, and a spirit of cooperation between Sheriff’s deputies and the Elgin Police is critical for both groups’ success.
So, will Dixon, even unintentionally, apply more Sheriff’s resources to Elgin? Or fearing he’ll be considered a “homer,” will he go out of his way to see that Elgin gets less? His new job description indicates he’ll be in a position to do either one. And will he do the converse in his city council role?
Worse yet, just like our serving on a city council and school board analogy, city councilmen should be their police department’s biggest advocates, and Sheriff’s staffers should similarly support their deputies. And as that biblical caveat clearly stipulates, no one can successfully serve those two masters.
But Dixon’s biggest problem is the confidential nature of the Sheriff gig as explicitly outlined in the job description we covered on Monday.
The best way for an elected official to mitigate a conflict of interest is to publicly announce it prior to tackling a vote or issue. But if you’re prohibited from revealing the full scope of your employment, that political “cleansing” becomes impossible.
So, how will the people of Elgin know when Dixon has a conflict that might affect his vote? He could recuse himself without citing a specific reason, but that certainly won’t endear him to his constituents, who are already losing faith in him.
The bottom line is, this dual role will, by default, make Dixon a far more ineffective city councilman, which is patently unfair to the voters who elected him. Conversely, how can he be an effective “Senior Assistant Director of Administration” when he can’t help but see things through an Elgin city councilman’s eyes?
The answer is he can’t. And if he had any self-respect, or an ounce of respect for the voters, he wouldn’t even have considered the Sheriff’s position, but the term “self-respecting politician” has become an oxymoron along the lines of jumbo shrimp, military intelligence, and Trump truth.
That’s why we need local journalism more than ever.
Thankfully, the answer to this conundrum is quite simple. Since you clearly can’t serve two masters, Dixon needs to pick one!