EDITORIAL: Trustee must be present for citizens to win

2012-09-26T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Trustee must be present for citizens to win nwitimes.com
September 26, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Sauk Village Trustee Robert Chavez stirred debate about when an extended absence goes from being a vacation to being AWOL.

Chavez, who resigned Tuesday, kept in touch by telephone while caring for ailing relatives in Texas. But he wasn't physically present at Village Board meetings for four consecutive meetings, village President Lewis Towers said. Chavez hadn't attended a Village Board or committee meeting, in person, since July 17.

Towers said last week he planned to consult the Cook County state's attorney about this. That's no longer necessary.

Over the summer, Chavez's home had a sticker on its front door posted by LPS Field Services Inc., indicating the property was considered "vacant or abandoned." Chavez said his brother has since been given a key to access the property.

It is not unheard of for a municipal board member to abandon his or her post. The new wrinkle in Chavez's case is that he kept in touch by phone.

Chavez even participated by phone in the Sept. 17 Village Board meeting. Trustee Enoch Benson IV did so July 10.

But there's a difference between physically present and phoning it in. Aside from the question about where loyalties lie when an elected official is away from home for an extended absence, being physically present means being accessible at local stores, ballgames and other gatherings where constituents might ask questions or at least be reassured that their elected representative understands their needs and concerns.

Chavez couldn't do so while remaining in Texas.

Chavez said he plans to return to the village eventually, after taking care of those ailing relatives in Texas. That's fine, but the citizens need someone more accessible on the Village Board who can attend to the village's needs. With Chavez's resignation, that can now happen.

Sauk Village next needs to clarify its residency rules to make it painfully obvious that an extended absence from the village, as well as from Village Board meetings, is unacceptable and grounds for removal from office.

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