Police Merger: Patti Bellock Says Referendum Idea Came From Residents
The state representative who sponsors legislation in the Illinois House that would make the merger possible said she heard support for a referendum from Citizens for Clarendon Hills and other community members.
State Rep. Patti Bellock (R-Hinsdale) said Tuesday she would continue to work on legislation that would clear the way for a Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills police merger even after the Clarendon Hills Village Board voted Monday night against the placement of a Bellock-supported advisory referendum on the April 9 ballot.
Bellock said the idea for a referendum came from her constituents. She had a meeting last year with members of Citizens for Clarendon Hills (C4CH), a resident group who opposed the merger without a referendum, but said support for the idea came from more than just one group.
"It wasn't just from them," Bellock said of C4CH. "There were some other citizens who called concerning a referendum also."
She said the referendum idea was "just a suggestion" and that she, as the House-originating bill's sponsor, would continue to work on the legislation.
"We’re just trying to move forward to make it a bill that we can pass," Bellock said.
The state representative said that Clarendon Hills Village President Tom Karaba and Hinsdale Village President Tom Cauley both said they would support the referendum during a meeting with Bellock over the holidays.
Karaba, a supporter of the exploration of consolidation, said Monday he would vote to place the referendum to accommodate Bellock’s request but didn't support it in principle.
“If that’s what it takes to get this done, I’ll vote for it," said Karaba, whose vote was not needed because trustees voted 5-1 against the referendum.
Karaba said after Monday night's meeting he thinks Bellock's support of the referendum was a political move.
Bellock disputed that notion, saying she simply wants to make sure the residents of Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills are on board before an unprecedented proposal such as the police merger goes forward.
"It was nothing political, it was just an answer to constituents in both communities," Bellock said.
The Hinsdale Board of Trustees meets Tuesday night and the same referendum question remains an agenda item as of 11:35 a.m. However, Hinsdale village manager Dave Cook said it is likely to be pulled from the agenda in light of Monday night's Clarendon Hills vote.
Clarendon Hills village manager Randy Recklaus said in a Jan. 17 memo to village trustees that a "critical stage" has been reached in the villages' negotiations with the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the union that represents patrol officers in both Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills.
FOP support is important, Recklaus said, to get Bellock's legislation beyond the committee stage in Springfield, where it's been since last year. The FOP objected to the bill when local officials presented it to the House in March.
The two sides are meeting Tuesday, the memo said, and the sticking point has been officer wages and benefits.
“It’s conceivable that we’ll discover the project is not feasible in the next couple of days,” Recklaus said.
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