Park Ridge, Illinois Could Add Background Check for Board and Commission Volunteers

By Michael Klazema on 10/1/2015
Criminal background checks could soon become a requirement for board and commission volunteers in the city of Park Ridge, Illinois. According to a report from the Chicago Tribune, Park Ridge's current acting mayor, Marty Maloney, requested the measure. Prior to taking the position of acting mayor for the Chicago suburb, Maloney worked as an alderman on the city's "Mayor's Advisory Board." That particular body is in charge of interviewing residents who are interested in serving as part of Park Ridge's various commissions and boards.

The aldermen on the Mayor's Advisory Board are a key cog in determining who is appointed to those boards. They are the ones who interview residents for the positions, getting to know the applicants and recommending the best ones for appointment to the city's boards. Without background checks, aldermen can't know everything, especially some of the darker secrets that an applicant may have.

One alderman, Dan Knight, said that background checks have been a consideration for several years now. So far, though, Park Ridge has not introduced a more formal process for vetting board and commission applicants. That could change, of course, if Maloney's request for background checks gains traction. For the record, Knight's name was also on the request for board and commission background checks, alongside Maloney's.

So far, the request could go either way. While most Park Ridge aldermen seem to be in favor of running background checks on prospective board and commission members, Knight told the Tribune that there were still "several important questions that need to be answered first." One of the current questions about the request is whether or not background check findings would become a matter of public record. Another is about whether the city would run background checks on every board or commission hopeful, or just on finalist candidates.

Either way, some measure of criminal background screening would be good in this situation. Park Ridge already runs background checks for all full-time or part-time employees, as most cities and towns do. Since board and commission members have a say in city matters, they should also be required to complete background checks. Some board or commission members may even have access to city documents or finances, privileges that would certainly seem to necessitate background checks. Resident-led boards and commissions in Park Ridge include the Animal Commission, the Citizens Patrol, and the Heritage Committee.

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