As DeKalb city clerk, I feel like a punching bag

***Update: Find discussion and comments in our Facebook group .***

When I read the other day the Daily Chronicle is still calling it a “rift” in describing what’s going on between the city manager’s office and me as city clerk, I realized I have to say more than I have before. It’s no longer a “rift,” if it ever was — that would imply equality of treatment. The relationship is more like I’m a punching bag for the city manager’s office.

To help illustrate, here are two of the latest email exchanges between the city manager and me. (I will also post copies of the actual emails at the end of this post.) Mind you, my emails addressed the city council only. I cc’d the city manager as a courtesy.

My message to the city council, December 6, 2019:

Dear Mayor Smith et al,

As some of you are already aware, in September I agreed to take on the process of preparing for the semi-annual review of executive session meeting minutes approval and release recommendations.

Having begun the process this week, I have discovered errors in the indexes that have resulted in executive session meeting minutes being released to the public that were not approved for release by council.

I have two requests to make to address these issues:

1. To remove, as soon as possible, published executive session meeting minutes from the City’s website until these errors can be corrected.

2. To amend the Council regular meeting agenda for December 9 by adding an executive session to discuss these minutes as provided for in 5 ILCS 120/2(c)(21).

Regards,
Lynn Fazekas | City Clerk

City manager’s reply, December 6, 2019:

Good afternoon,

As tiring and distracting as the City Clerk’s fabrications and thinly-veiled charges against Ruth Scott may be, they are–more importantly—creating the basis for an employee harassment charge which will be substantial and embarrassing to the City at a time when we are within sight of some transformational growth. As your chief administrative officer and development director, I ask that we discuss these unfounded allegations in executive session where the truth can be dispassionately shared, and then get back to what the public has asked us to do.

As an historian and a keen observer of the American political scene since the early 1970s, I have been witness to many national public figures who have sadly appealed to base emotions by plucking some imagined dark thread of corruption and laying it on the shoulders of persons whose dedication is a constant reminder of their own inadequacies. Before January 1, I thought I had seen everything, and I also thought I would never see, on a local level, the conspiratorial thinking that animates the City Clerk. As there seems to be no relief from her presence until the spring of 2021, I trust that we will collectively find ways to hold her to the duties that the Council approved on October 14, and also hold her to what is commonly understood as professional decency and discretion.

In the weeks and months ahead, I hope we can focus on the main thing.

Best,
Bill

My update to the city council on February 5, 2020:

Dear Mayor and City Council:

As you will recall from my email in December on this subject, upon taking up the task of preparation for Council’s next review of executive session meeting minutes I discovered that possibly up to 18 full or partial sets of executive session meeting minutes had been released in contravention of Council’s vote on July 8, 2019, following a routine review.

Since then I have conducted an analysis of the erroneously released minutes of that date, as well as comparisons of earlier votes to actual releases going back to 2017. So far, I’ve found unauthorized full or partial release did occur 16 times, along with several instances of another type of error, that of “released” minutes that turned out to be topics that were authorized for executive session discussion but not actually discussed during the session. 

Although I will continue spot-checking Council votes against actual releases, so far it appears the unauthorized releases are confined to meeting minutes for the period 2016-2018 and a supposed release date of July 8, 2019.

I have catalogued the errors in the attached rough chart. I’ve also segregated the minutes so Council members can inspect and evaluate what damage, if any, might have occurred with the unauthorized releases, considering the minutes were not only available upon request but also posted for several months on the City’s website.

Please contact me if you have questions or would like to inspect these minutes.

Yours very truly,
Lynn Fazekas | City Clerk

City manager’s response to my update, February 5, 2020:

Good afternoon,

Judging by the tone of this note and the attachment, it appears that the Clerk assumes that she has uncovered a shocking series of errors on the part of Executive Assistant Ruth Scott. I do not know at this juncture what is fact or fiction, but the professional approach would have been to visit with Ruth and point out—in a collegial fashion—any scrivener or other errors the Clerk thought existed. The “gotcha” approach is designed to embarrass and demean a very earnest, honest, and professional colleague, and is certainly beneath what we expect of public servants.

I have asked Ruth to take valuable time away from other pressing duties in the days ahead in order to address each of the alleged errors, and will provide the Council with the results as time permits. The cataloguing of the Clerk’s errors would take much longer, but I will not abide any tit-for-tat. We are on the threshold of some very positive initiatives in DeKalb, yet we continue to be dragged down by tiresome and self-serving innuendo. The Clerk tried to embarrass the Mayor and Council with a frivolous lawsuit which was thrown out; now she is going after the person who makes her look good every day that someone is looking for the Clerk who is not here. For shame.

Bill

Threats, accusations, and ridicule. There are any number of other similar emails strung across more than half a year. What’s different about this batch is they are addressed to the mayor and entire city council, so we know they’ve all received the emails. Note the second exchange was two months from the first and equally contemptuous; it seems doubtful council interceded in the interim. Also, there’s been no executive session or any other meeting to hash out the original issue, much less anyone’s bizarre and unprofessional behavior.

Is it fair to say at this point that our council believes the city manager’s behavior toward me is perfectly acceptable?

Would it be okay with council for the city manager to send such emails to the mayor?

Would it be okay with council for the city manager to send such emails to their mothers?

Is this really the city hall work environment the council supports?

How many others who work at city hall might be suffering in silence?

The receipts:

Yahoo-Mail-Fw_-Executive-Session-Meeting-Minutes-Need-Quick-Action

Yahoo-Mail-FW_-Unauthorized-Release-of-Meeting-Minutes_-Update