Jennifer Diaz tabbed to fill Spring Valley council seat

Diaz replaces Fred West, who quit without explanation

Spring Valley has a new alderman: Jennifer Diaz will take Fred West’s seat on the City Council.

Monday, Mayor Melanie Malooley Thompson appointed Diaz to West’s seat and the council voted 6-0 to ratify the appointment.

“She’s an organized and motivated leader,” Malooley Thompson said.

Diaz is a nursing home administrator who sits on the Spring Valley Park Board and has served on the Spring Valley Elementary board of education. Malooley Thompson confirmed Diaz must relinquish both posts before being sworn in.

West resigned without explanation on June 24, effective immediately. Neither West nor Diaz was present at the council meeting. West did not return a telephone message seeking comment. West was one of five candidates who ran for mayor in April, finishing second to Malooley Thompson by 46 votes. West, a Spring Valley businessman, served six years as an alderman.

Separately, the council voted 6-0 to apply $20,000 of city funds to an otherwise grant-funded program letting income-eligible residents make home improvements. The city is seeking a $550,000 grant to assist an estimated 10 single-family homeowners make necessary improvements such as new roofs.

Eligible recipients would have to make the improvements within 24 months and have what’s called a five-year “forgivable” loan, meaning there’s no need to repay the grant if they remain in the residence for five years.

Also, the council approved the purchase a subscription to a Lexipol service that will supply the Spring Valley Police Department with policy updates and keep the department compliant with changes in the law.

Spring Valley Police Chief Adam Curran acknowledged the expense ($7,000 a year) but pointed out Springfield imposed sprawling changes to law enforcement that must be implemented.

“With the new laws coming into effect,” Curran said, “policy is going to be evolving over and over and over.”

The council approved the cost 6-0, noting it’s a more cost-effective alternative to having legal counsel research and draft policy changes.

Finally, the council scheduled a July 15 committee meeting to discuss, among other topics, creating an auditing official. City attorney Sheryl Churney said a newly-enacted law effectively requires cities to have a post to not only scour the books but with authority to make financial decisions when a problem or discrepancy arises.

The new law gives communities a default option giving that authority to the state’s attorney’s office; but Churney said she recommend the council ponder carefully who should hold the post and to not lightly relinquish authority to the prosecutor’s office.

“I also don’t think we’re in a position to make a decision on this tonight,” Churney said, adding later, “It went into effect July 1, but I think we should take our time and fill the position with the right person.”