Letter from Clerk Liz Peerboom on the State of the DeKalb City Clerk’s Office: ‘This is Your City. Take it Back’

Here’s a letter to the editor from Liz Peerboom, whose career as a deputy clerk and city clerk in two communities spans nearly 20 years. Currently the clerk for the Village of Maple Park, Peerboom was awarded the title Rookie of the Year by the Municipal Clerks of Illinois in 2011, in part for implementing improvements to meeting protocols, in-person customer service, and website user experiences. She was also lauded as a team player at the village hall.

Peerboom has served in DeKalb city government both as a deputy and as the elected city clerk, and DeKalb is still her home.

Editor:

When the City of DeKalb was founded in 1865, the City Clerk was full time. Of course, at the time, there were fewer residents and the Clerk did everything from the statutory duties to that of water billing clerk, payroll clerk and accountant. They even did birth and death certificates.

Fast forward to 2012, when the City of DeKalb found itself without a Clerk after then City Clerk Steve Kapitan resigned. The reaction of the City Council was to slash the budget for the City Clerk for the next election to $5,000 per year, making it a part-time position. That’s where I came in…

In 2013, I ran as a write in candidate and won the election. When I was sworn in, I was ready to work and bring the City Clerk’s office back to the office it had once been. Even though it was part-time, and I worked another part-time job, I came to meetings in the evening as required and came during the day to attest documents and oversee what I thought was my office. Right away, they moved me into an office with the Deputy City Clerk, and although it was small I made due because I was a team player. Then, when the Clerk’s office was moved down the hall to where it is now, suddenly I did not have a desk, but only a filing cabinet where I kept my recorder (used for closed session meetings) and the City Seal. The City Seal is used to attest documents and is supposed to be under the control of the City Clerk.

It did not take long to realize that the new City Manager did not want the City Clerk’s office to be autonomous. The reason that a City Clerk is elected as opposed to being appointed is to speak for the residents without fear of retribution. That was not the case in my office. The deputies were under the control of the City Manager and answered only to her (which is against the state statute, by the way). It became so outrageous that I had to resign. And whether or not you like the way that I resigned, I would like residents to know that it got to the point where I realized that I could not continue taking taxpayer money and be a Clerk without any power. When I say power, I mean the power to speak for the residents.

I believe that the City Clerk’s position should be full-time. I believe that the deputies in that office should be hired only by the City Clerk and not under the control of the City Manager. I believe that the office can get along with one full time City Clerk and one full time Deputy City Clerk.

The City Clerk’s office would then take back the licensing duties that it once had; they would also take back the FOIA requests. There is no reason that the City of DeKalb should have a full time employee that only handles FOIA requests. There are too many high paid “Friends of Anne Marie” at the city, but I digress.

The City of Sycamore and the Town of Cortland, both smaller municipalities than DeKalb, have full time Clerks.

A petition with over 200 signatures was presented to the DeKalb City Council asking them to make the position full time and they ignored it. The petition suggested getting rid of the full time employee that does only FOIA requests (who, by the way makes around $70,000 per year) and give those duties to the Clerk for a minimum of $47,500 per year. It is just common sense.

I am appealing to the residents of DeKalb. Please contact Mayor John Rey and contact your alderman. If you don’t know who your alderman is, call the City of DeKalb at (815) 748-2000 and they can tell you who your alderman is and how to contact that person. AND get out and vote! It is important that the residents tell the City Council what they want to see in City government. This is your city, take it back!

Liz Peerboom

DeKalb Illinois