Brookfield does not have a king, but the village board in January is expected to vote to adopt an emergency operations plan ordinance that would confer king-like powers to the village president in the case of an extraordinary attack or natural disaster.
Just how sweeping are the powers proposed in the new law? Well, pretty sweeping.
In the case of a state of emergency – defined in the proposed ordinance as either an attack on the United States “of unprecedented size and destruction” or “any natural or manmade disaster, including but not limited to fire, flood, earthquake, epidemic and explosion” – powers conferred on the village president include the following:
Making, amending and rescinding all lawful orders, rules and regulations
Procuring “services, supplies and equipment” without bids or normal contract rules
Ordering the evacuation of “all or part of the population”
Ordering a general curfew
Restricting vehicle movement
Ordering the closure of all liquor establishments and banning the sale or distribution of liquor by anyone
Prohibiting the sale of gasoline
Prohibiting the possession of any container containing any liquid in a public place
Prohibiting the sale, distribution of firearms and the possession of firearms in public
Ordering public places of assembly to be closed
Freezing the prices of goods and services
And the catch-all, issuing “such other orders as are imminently necessary for the protection of life and property.”
Village Manager Riccardo Ginex confirmed that it would take an awful lot for such powers to come into play, and that the floods and wind storms the village has experienced in recent years are not the kinds of events that would trigger a state of emergency.
“We’re talking about serious, serious life endangerment type things,” Ginex said.
Trustee Brian Oberhauser expressed some concern about the powers enumerated in the ordinance and questioned whether they had been vetted by the state of Illinois. Village Attorney Richard Ramello said they had not.
“There really hasn’t been any factual situation where these have arisen that would give rise to a court case,” said Ramello, who based the ordinance on plans adopted by other communities and counties. “Some of the powers granted to the president are extraordinary, but since you can’t predict what kind of emergency it’s going to be.”
Still, Oberhauser questioned some of the powers listed in the law.
“To think President Garvey or his designee could prevent people from having a Diet Coke in their hands on the street is a pretty extreme power,” Oberhauser said.
Ramello crafted the ordinance, which may be amended by trustees prior to a vote, in response to a state statute suggesting municipalities pass an emergency response plan that gives its mayor “extraordinary power and authority to exercise, by executive order, during a state of emergency … as may be reasonably necessary to respond to the emergency.”
According to the state statute, the provision has been on the books since 1968. It doesn’t appear that the statute requires that such powers be defined. Instead it states that the municipal government “may” grant those powers.
Ramello said Brookfield was responding to encouragement from Cook County to adopt a state of emergency response plan so Brookfield’s plan “could mesh with Cook County’s plan.”
Such powers would not be long-lasting. The statute states that a state of emergency “shall expire no later than the adjournment of the first regular meeting [of the village board] … after the state of emergency is declared.”
The proposed ordinance also updates the village’s line of succession in the event the village president is not around during a state of emergency. There are seven people listed in the line of succession, including, in order, a president pro-tem elected by the village board at a special meeting, the chairman of the board’s administrative committee, the village manager, the assistant village manger, the police chief, the fire chief and the superintendent of public works.