A judge has taken under advisement whether it's a conflict of interest for a Fairview Heights alderwoman to vote on an Interstate 64 project at Ruby Lane.
St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert Haida on Thursday asked attorneys on both sides to file all relevant casework by noon Friday. He will issue a written ruling after further review.
Ward 4 Alderwoman Linda Arnold filed a lawsuit against the city to resolve whether she can act on the project if her home on Ruby Lane may be affected by the ramp's placement.
Earlier this year, Arnold co-sponsored a resolution to prevent the placement of an I-64 exit at Ruby Lane. A vote is delayed until the conflict of interest issue is resolved.
In the motion hearing Thursday that lasted about an hour:
* Both sides agreed that Arnold did not commit statutory violations per the Illinois Municipal Code and Public Officer's Prohibited Activities Act, and Haida said a ruling by the court on this matter would be "superflous."
* But the city's attorneys, Jason Winslow and Dawn Sallerson, said common law prohibits Arnold, a public official, from voting or sponsoring legislation on the project because it's planned directly where her home is located. Thus, she has personal and financial interests tied to the outcome.
Winslow said Arnold has an interest in blocking the proposed project to protect her home and property, and it is this personal interest that affects her duty to represent the residents in her ward.
There is no way to know whether Arnold votes impartially, Winslow said.
"That's what we're trying to protect."
Sallerson said that if Arnold is allowed to vote, it could void any action the City Council takes on the project, jeapordize any related contracts and put the city at risk for future lawsuits.
* Arnold's attorney, Jay Dowling, said Arnold does not stand to gain or lose more than anyone else in the Ruby Lane neighborhood.
Dowling said eminent domain would affect Arnold in the same way it affects her neighbors because she does not determine her financial gain.
Dowling also said it's wrong to allege that Arnold can't be impartial because her property might be taken. Arnold would act on behalf of her constituents, who have said they do not want an interchange at Ruby Lane.
If it's a conflict for Arnold to vote in this matter, Dowling asked, would it be a conflict for aldermen to vote on planning and zoning issues that affect their home, street, neighborhood or ward?
"Where do we draw the line?"
Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2655.