Normal Council Members Reproach Nord On Ethics Statements
Six members of the Normal Town Council on Monday night excoriated the seventh, Stan Nord, for what some called bullying, and others slander, of City Manager Pam Reece.
The special meeting came about after Nord questioned Reece's ethics last week on procurement and zoning policy, and over deciding who could attend a 2019 citizens summit. Council members said the first two were a matter of law and the third was a decision reached by the town council as whole, not Reece. City Attorney Brian Day also said he alone is responsible for issuing legal opinions on zoning and procurement and he did not consult with Reece at all.
Council member Chemberly Cummings said Nord has had it in for Reece — not just last week, but for the last couple of years.
"I've watched as harassment has taken place and her being berated and belittled oftentimes. It has left me quite uncomfortable to even sit in council meetings and sometimes read emails that have done so. This is a serious matter and one that should not be taken lightly," said Cummings.
Nord seemed surprised at the tenor of the hour-long meeting chastising his conduct.
"Well, this is not what I expected it to be but, I'm glad Mr. Day and others had time to make prepared statements," said Nord.
Other council members said they have never observed Reece act less than professionally and there is zero evidence of anything unethical in the way she does her job.
Reece herself put Nord on notice his conduct should change.
"I'm disappointed by the ongoing attempts by one individual to disparage my reputation without merit. What council members say and do matters and impacts the organization," said Reece.
Council member Karyn Smith called out Nord for sexism for rancor that would not be addressed to someone of the same gender.
"There is no ethical violation. There is no malfeasance. What we have instead is a strong, capable woman that is causing insecurities among some people who cannot deal with a female in a position of leadership," said Smith.
Smith also apologized to Reece and town staff for not speaking out sooner while their boss was being bullied.
Nord denied Smith's allegation.
"The accusation that this is based on gender, that is completely unfounded. That, I think, is wrong," said Nord.
Others said Nord's behavior criticizing town staff and questioning the legitimacy of ordinary business is "Washington-type political pugilism" waged in the town. Council member Kevin McCarthy said that is unfortunate for the public.
"Taxpayers that are listening and paying attention, you are the ones that are losing here. This is inefficient government. This is costing you money. The last unfounded accusation cost us $2,500 and a number of staff hours as this has as well. Clearly the burden of proof lies with the accuser. I'm still waiting as, I assume, everyone else is," said McCarthy.
"What we have instead is a strong, capable woman that is causing insecurities among some people who cannot deal with a female in a position of leadership."
He added there used to be a time when there was a burden of proof to meet before making such allegations in public.
"Please hold elected officials accountable for accusations and professional slander," said McCarthy.
Council member Scott Preston said he too supports Reece, but questioned whether the goal of the meeting was to change Nord's behavior and whether that was achievable.
Mayor Chris Koos said once Nord crossed a line in the sand by making a public accusation of unethical behavior, it required a public response and not one made in an executive session.
"So that people are very, very clear that six members of this council were unhappy that her ethics were challenged and wanted to state very publicly that we hold her in the highest regard for her professional behavior and her ethical behavior," said Koos.
Koos said the intent was not an effort to chastise Nord beyond the meeting. Even that, Nord said, was wrong.
"I thought we were going to come and have a policy discussion and instead I come into essentially a hearing without any notice that 'Hey, you need to defend yourself,'" said Nord, adding he would like to see a town policy on ethics.
"What I would like to hear is if other council members value ethics enough to actually define what they are and set in place a policy that is written that we can look to and point to something. Because go out and look, ethics are all over the place," said Nord.
Other council members questioned that, saying that's not what happened. If Nord wanted a policy discussion first, he would not have questioned Reece's professionalism in particular. But that is not what he did.
Smith noted that she campaigned together with Nord two years ago and fought to get a seat at the table and a chance to talk as equals with others on the council. Rather than do that, she said Nord has continued to push individual agendas rather than seek support.
She said Nord has succeeded when he has communicated with other council members and she doesn't know why he abandoned that approach.
"It pains me that even saying all of this, nothing will change. But I'm asking you to stop. For the sake of our town, for the sake of our community, please just stop," said Smith.
Reece said she will not take future attempts to besmirch her reputation lightly. Nord declined further comment to WGLT after the meeting.