City of DeKalb is Not the Authority on Whether We Elect a Clerk in the Spring

Were you confused that DeKalb city clerk Liz Peerboom seemed to have resigned from office last Friday, but now the city is still awaiting her resignation? Me too. Fortunately I’ve been diving into the Illinois Municipal Code as time has allowed. The answer is that the resignation is not official unless it’s signed and notarized. Email doesn’t count.

Another reason for spending time with the Muni Code is to figure out what comes next in the matter of selecting a new city clerk. This is harder than it looks because sometimes one section of the Code seems to contradict another. However, after some research I feel confident the following assertion is wrong:

Once city staff receives Peerboom’s resignation, [Mayor] Rey will appoint someone to fill the remaining two years and eight months of her term.

Nope nope nope.

DeKalb has tried to push an appointed clerk on us via two referenda since 2007, so it’s no surprise the city’s agent would try to convince us that it needs to appoint a successor for the full length of the unexpired term. And to be fair, there is an old division of the Code on the books having to do with specific, elected municipal officers that potentially bolsters its argument:

(65 ILCS 5/3.1-20-5) (from Ch. 24, par. 3.1-20-5)

Sec. 3.1-20-5. Clerk and treasurer. The city clerk and the city treasurer shall be elected at the same time that the mayor is elected, except in the case of an election to fill a mayoral vacancy and except in the case of a city having 10,000 or fewer inhabitants in which, by ordinance, the position of city treasurer is an appointed position. If a vacancy occurs in the office of city clerk or city treasurer, it shall be filled by the mayor with the advice and consent of the city council. The person so appointed shall hold office for the unexpired term of the officer elected. (Source: P.A. 87-1119; 88-572, eff. 8-11-94.)

Seems pretty clear, right? Well, here’s another part of the Code:

(f) Election to fill vacancies in municipal offices with 4-year terms. If a vacancy occurs in an elective municipal office with a 4-year term and there remains an unexpired portion of the term of at least 28 months, and the vacancy occurs at least 130 days before the general municipal election next scheduled under the general election law, then the vacancy shall be filled for the remainder of the term at that general municipal election.

Chapter and verse on the above: (65 ILCS 5/) Sec. 3.1-10-50, entitled, “Events upon which an elective office becomes vacant in municipality with population under 500,000.”

The reason I believe Sec. 3.1-10-50 contains the correct statutory guidelines to follow is Public Act 95-0646.

  • This Act was written specifically to address municipal office vacancies.

  • It was sweeping, requiring the amendment of eight election and municipal statutes.

  • It is newer, becoming effective January 1, 2008 after the GA successfully overrode the governor’s veto.

  • Generally speaking, newer laws supersede older laws as long as legislative intent is clear.

    You don’t have to take my word for it, of course, but for goodness’ sake don’t take DeKalb’s, either. The city should be made to consult the election authorities for a definitive answer.