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Local News

Joliet residency: Is it an issue or not?

John Hertko is one of two members of the Environmental Commission who does not live in the Joliet city limits.
John Hertko is one of two members of the Environmental Commission who does not live in the Joliet city limits.

Not everyone on the commission determining the future of Joliet water lives in Joliet, a subject that some people have been talking about – especially since one of those commissioners is John Hertko.

Hertko was at the center of recent controversy when he claimed there was a move among city administrators to oust him from the Environmental Commission because he is outspoken on water issues.

The commission by December is to make a recommendation on where Joliet should go for water when it switches from deep wells.

The other non-resident is the chairman of the commission: Gary Davidson, an attorney who has an office in Joliet but lives in Homer Glen.

Hertko lives in unincorporated Troy Township, although he notes his backyard borders Joliet, and he owns seven commercial properties in the city.

"I have seven city water meters with my properties," said Hertko, who also said he brought up the matter of his non-residency before joining the committee. "I raised that point when they first approached me, but having seven city properties – that seemed to suffice."

Mayor Bob O'Dekirk has made clear that he does not intend to remove Hertko from the commission for being outspoken.

Asked about Hertko and Davidson not living in the city limits, O'Dekirk said he did not consider it an issue.

"They're all approved by the city council," he said, adding that the commission is nearing the end of its assignment. "It's not an issue at this point."

The mayor appoints members of the commission. The council approves them.

Often there is no information made available about the appointments before their approval. Residency questions are never raised. The council seldom asks anything about mayoral appointments before giving approval.

But the city ordinance governing boards and commissions does make an issue of residency.

Residency is the first item under general conditions of service.

"No person shall be seated on any board, commission or other body that is subject to this division unless that person is an actual resident of the city or the ordinance establishing such body expressly allows for non-residency of its members," the ordinance states.

The ordinance establishing the Environmental and Refuse Commission, the commission that O'Dekirk resurrected to study the water issue, makes no exceptions for residency.

O'Dekirk pointed to the absence of any specific residency rule for the Environmental and Refuse Commission. But the overall rules for city commissions would seem to apply.

City Attorney Martin Shanahan declined to offer an opinion on the matter.

The commission will not make any final decisions on where Joliet will get its water. But it is responsible for bringing a recommendation to the city council, which will make the decision.

Hertko, because he is so outspoken, and Davidson, because he is chairman, could be considered the two most influential members of the commission.

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