If you are a resident of City of DeKalb, this post is for you – especially if you voted in the General Election of 2012.
DeKalb has an at-large city clerk elected by the people, despite at least two referendums over the past decade asking to switch to an appointed clerk. The latest question came in the fall of 2012, when 70.49% of voters rejected a referendum to allow the city to appoint the clerk.
Afterward, the city approved a compensation ordinance that slashed the pay from $60,000 to $5,000 per year for the clerk who was to be elected in municipal elections in 2013 for a four-year term.
The consequences have been devastating in the view of anyone who values the will of the voters. In the municipal election of 2009, when the clerk still had full-time compensation and duties, there were four candidates on the ballot; but in 2013, there were no candidates on the ballot, only write-ins. Then the write-in candidate who was elected in spring of 2013 resigned in the fall of 2014. Following that, there was a gap of several months when no clerk was serving, and then a write-in clerk candidate for the April 2015 election who secretly dropped out of the race sometime before Election Day. Three appointments to the office were made in 2015 alone.
The reduced compensation has made it impossible to a) attract qualified candidates, and b) elect and retain them. Whether intentional or not, City of DeKalb has succeeded in depriving us of a duly-elected city clerk for most of the past four years.
The season for preparing the FY17 annual city budget has begun, and another compensation ordinance will need to be prepared soon for the term of the clerk we hope to elect next spring. These require the approval of the city council. Council also has authority to re-assign non-statutory duties to the clerk to match any rise in compensation with additional work. If you find the current situation unacceptable and wish to suggest changes, the biggest thing is to make sure council members are aware of your views with phone calls, emails, and attendance at meetings over the next month or so.
There is also a petition being circulated that is calling for council action, and a Facebook group you can join, and we will continue to discuss these issues in the City Barbs group on Facebook as well.
Correcting the clerk’s compensation is a big deal, but other steps need to be taken as well, so please watch for additional posts. Meantime, you can check the “city clerk” tag for more background.