Conduct rules raise questions of personal rights in Illinois town

Mike Wiser

No personal e-mails. No fighting. No sexual harassing of co-workers. And personal belongings are subject to search at any time on city property.

The South Beloit City Council is considering making these — and 17 pages of others — the standards of behavior for employees.

Commissioner Bob Re­dieske presented the list at Monday night’s council meeting and it soon became the subject of a debate over management and employee rights.

Redieske said the list isn’t final, but the city had gone too long without putting down on paper what it expects of its employees.

Some called the rules retaliation because of the number of small unions some city employees have formed.

Not so, Redieske said. At least, not entirely.

“Legally, with everything that’s been going on with the unions, we need to have something like this,” he said.

“There are going to be a lot of changes in our workplace. ... It’s going to be a different environment.”

Last week, the six employees of the city’s street department filed for representation with Laborers Local 32. 

They make up the fourth group to file for union membership in the past two years in South Beloit.

First, it was police officers. Then came the police sergeants — Adam Truman and Brad McCaslin — who formed their own union. The third, made up of police clerks Cindy King and Wanda Weston-Johnson, may be challenged by the city.

None have signed contract agreements with the city yet.

The City Council is hosting a series of meetings with department heads and staff as they work through what exactly management and employee rights should be.

Some of the most vocal criticism of the policies came from the city’s police officers.

Sgt. McCaslin questioned the section that allows top city administrators and council members to access any computer in the city. 

“Look, I don’t want my guys to be going to www.ishouldn’ either,” he said. “And if they are, I want to know about it. But some of these computer files contain information — like juvenile records — that you shouldn’t be able to look up.”

Interim Police Chief Tom Fearn said the city also could run into problems with the “Workplace Inspection” section, which says: “The city reserves the right to inspect any packages, parcels, purses, handbags, briefcases, lunch boxes or any other possessions or articles carried to and from city property by employees and all other persons leaving and entering the city’s premises.”

Fearn said anybody — employee or not — could be searched if they attended a City Council meeting or visited a city-owned park.

“You better have signs up, at least, letting people know this can happen,” he said.

Staff writer Mike Wiser can be reached at 815-987-1377 or