When A Good Idea Is Against The Law
Here’s a question you might hear in law school: is it worth breaking the law to do a good thing?
Law student John Kozlar has promised, if elected, to “give his entire $73,280 Aldermanic Allowance to support our seniors and veterans instead of using it for himself.”
I haven’t promised to do that with the Aldermanic Allowance.
The reason is I can’t. Because it’s illegal.
John’s idea is great. There is no doubt that seniors and veterans deserve support. We all know that. It’s a very good idea that comes from someone whose heart is in the right place.
But if you do it with that particular money, you have to break the law to do it.
What we have is a law student simply misreading the law.
The Aldermanic Allowance John talks about has very specific laws that govern the money. The rules say it’s to be used for the various expenses of running an Alderman’s office.
It gets expensive to run an office, as I learned in my many years of managing custom furniture showrooms.
In Chicago’s Municipal Code, ordinance 2-8-050 states that the Aldermanic Allowance is “to be used for ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with the performance of an alderman’s official duties”.
(The law also states this money is never to be used for “personal, political or campaign expenses”, so it’s a misreading to say you could “use it for yourself” in the first place.)
But you also couldn’t legally give it away to seniors and veterans or to anybody because the ordinance specifically forbids it in 2-8-050 (c) (8), which reads “In no event shall any aldermanic expense allowance funds be used for any of the following purposes: […] trophies, awards, gifts or donations of any kind”
You can click here to see the Municipal Code section in question. It’s been on the books since 1991.
Again: John Kozlar’s heart is in the right place. Seniors and veterans need to live in dignity and be protected. And there are many ways to do that — legal ways — that I’m committed to.
But someone with a law education should know we need to do that legally.
That’s why we need someone with experience and attention to detail to make sure that happens. That’s why I will make the best Alderman for the 11th Ward.
If we make things up as we go along, if we say anything just to get elected, that makes us no better than the machine.