Pekin mayoral candidate denies conflict in vote on selling city lot
Pekin mayoral candidate Becky Cloyd says she didn’t do anything improper in supporting the sale of a city-owned downtown property to a developer who donated to her campaign.
Cloyd’s vote at the Feb. 28 city council meeting provided a super majority that approved Randy Price’s $1,000 purchase of the vacant lot behind the Tobin Building. Price contributed $5,000 to Cloyd’s mayoral bid in December.
“There's no conflict of interest because I would have had to gain something personally for any money that was received,” Cloyd told WCBU. “I did not gain anything personally, but rather had someone contribute to the campaign to get my name on the ballot.”
Cloyd said Price’s donation covered the bulk of her $6,000 in legal expenses from her successful appeal of the December ruling by the Pekin Electoral Board that invalidated her nominating petitions. But she said any suggestion that Price’s contribution secured him a favorable council decision is without merit.
“In that scenario, even if he would have bought my vote — which is the implication here — he would have had to successfully bought the votes of the other three that voted as well,” said Cloyd, who presides over council meetings as mayor pro tem following the resignation of former mayor Mark Luft.
Cloyd is running against fellow council member Dave Nutter and former Tazewell County treasurer Mary Burress in the April 4 election. Luft decided against seeking another term before leaving office in January.
Robin Johnson, a Monmouth College professor and political analyst, said he doesn’t think Illinois law prohibits what Cloyd did in this instance, but that a judgment may come through the ballot box.
“People donate to candidates, business owners donate to candidates, everybody donates to candidates for a variety of reasons. A lot of times it's just to get access to have them listen; sometimes they’re friends (and) sometimes they want something specific,” said Johnson.
“The optics of it don't look good when it comes out in a situation like this. But ultimately, it's up to the voters to figure out whether this indeed is a conflict or passes the smell test, so to speak, of whether the ethics are something that they would like in their public officials to have.”
Cloyd noted she initially abstained from a vote on a required amendment to the purchase agreement identifying Price as the buyer. She then voted to approve the sale “because that was the will of the majority of the council.”
“As the mayor pro tem and, through my learning as the chair of a meeting, it is customary to vote with the majority, and that's what I did.”