DIXON – Police Chief Danny Langloss, who is acting as special assistant to the City Council, says he doesn't want to comment on how the council handled its responsibilities in years past.
But if the city election were held today, the chief says, he would advise council members to meet in public when they give out their job assignments.
"We need to be as open and transparent as possible," he said. "The elected officials need to have all of these discussions in open session."
For decades, newly elected council members have met in private to divvy up their responsibilities, which give them administrative powers over areas of city government. Sauk Valley Media documented this practice in a story earlier this month, with officials acknowledging the closed meetings.
Under the commission form of government, a newly elected council must select commissioners by majority vote at its first meeting after the election, according to state law.
Langloss, who will be in his assistant's role until the council hires an administrator, declined to say whether the council violated that law in the past. If a private meeting were held today, Langloss said, he would consult with the city attorney.
"We haven't paid our attorney to research that issue," he said.
Langloss said he did not believe the council's private meeting in 2011 designating commissioners' jobs complied with the state Open Meetings Act, which requires public bodies to advertise their meetings and hold them in the open, with only limited exceptions. At the meeting 2 years ago, most of the members had just been elected but hadn't taken office, so the open meetings law didn't apply, he said.
The issue of Dixon's commission form of government has taken center stage in the wake of the Rita Crundwell scandal. Under that form, part-time commissioners supervise areas of government, which critics say made it easier for Crundwell, the longtime former comptroller, to make off with nearly $54 million over two decades.
A mayor-appointed task force is recommending the council let voters decide whether to adopt a managerial form of government, where a manager runs the day-to-day operations and the council only sets policy.
Most council members seem to favor the commission form. They also have said they want people to move on from Crundwell.
"If the city is acting wrong, by all means, that should be reported," Langloss said.
But residents and the media shouldn't dwell on the Crundwell era, he said.
"We have changed the way we do business," he said. "If we keep kicking the city, we'll never get past this. We're performing at a high level."