Jumping off my last post and recent discussion of it, I want to share a little more of the context in which I currently attempt to function as city clerk in DeKalb.
This time last year, I signed and sealed some contracts and all plats, ordinances, resolutions, and licenses. Hundreds of documents crossed my desk in my first months as DeKalb city clerk. But beginning last spring, following a decision to move a large portion of license processing from the finance division to the city manager’s office, others began signing licenses without my knowledge. These incidents snowballed after the request for my resignation last July, and with the city council’s October 14 passage of amendments to the clerk’s ordinances, the flow of documents slowed, then dried up altogether before the end of 2019.
Except for meeting minutes, I haven’t signed a thing since mid-December.
Continue reading Taking away the city clerk’s role in checks and balances
On Monday, unlikely as it may sound, DeKalb city council might vote to appoint me to the office of city clerk.
No matter how it turns out, the fact remains that Mayor Jerry Smith has placed under consideration a person who can be a vocal critic of this administration. That takes a bit of nerve. I was trying to think of the last mayor who might have done something similar, and came up with Mayor Frank Van Buer, who appointed the redoubtable Mac McIntyre to the city’s Finance Advisory Committee 10 years ago. Let’s give due respect, because this type of inclusion doesn’t happen every day.
What would happen with the blog? Contrary to current rumors, giving up the blog is not a condition of the clerk appointment — at least not overtly. The actual question was, “How do you reconcile the clerk’s position with the blog?” and my answer was, “I don’t.”
Whatever success I’ve enjoyed as a blogger has depended in large part upon people’s not being afraid to talk to me. My assumption is that effectiveness as the city clerk involves the same level of trust.
If appointed, then, City Barbs blog would go into other hands or on hiatus, and a trusted group of moderators would manage the Facebook group.
But maybe there would be clerkblog.
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.
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. Continue reading Letter from Clerk Liz Peerboom on the State of the DeKalb City Clerk’s Office: ‘This is Your City. Take it Back’
If you haven’t had a chance to sign the paper version, here’s another option.
PETITION TO RESTORE THE OFFICE OF DEKALB CITY CLERK | Online Petition
You are welcome to stop by at the Facebook Group, too. We have an event coming up Sunday.
To communicate privately, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hit the “city clerk restoration” tag for posts about this action.
Just yesterday, we were comparing the positions of city clerk as practiced in Sycamore and DeKalb.
You can see from that post that Sycamore and DeKalb treat their city clerks very differently, though this was not true in the past.
To continue the comparison: Sycamore’s municipal code follows the applicable Illinois statutes, while DeKalb’s differs from state law in several ways.
To show this, I’m bringing back a table I published in April that describes how DeKalb’s municipal code differs from Illinois statutes in four important ways. DeKalb began deviating from the statutes following the resignation of clerk Steve Kapitan in 2012. Continue reading Illinois Statutes Versus DeKalb Municipal Code in the Matter of the City Clerk
Once upon a time, City of Sycamore and City of DeKalb had duly elected, full-time city clerks. Sycamore still has one. DeKalb’s, however, was destroyed in 2013. Low compensation and transfer of powers to the city manager’s office have deprived us of elected clerks and clerk candidates ever since.
Whatever the city thought it was doing when it allowed this state of affairs, the reality is that DeKalb residents may soon be facing their third election in which zero candidates for clerk appear on the ballot. Continue reading Sycamore Versus DeKalb: Comparison of City Clerks
The compensation ordinance that will apply to our next city clerk has NOT received final approval. So there is no, or at least not yet, a “hefty raise” for the clerk as claimed by the newspaper today. It was only first reading. They only reveal this fact in the final sentence of the article.
The issue is scheduled to come back before the City Council for final consideration Oct. 24.
Until then, all compensation numbers are placeholders, and a lot could conceivably happen between now and then.
The mayor’s compensation is $22,500 and is not expected to change. The clerk’s compensation is $5,000. The proposed rise in compensation for the clerk is only up to $8,000.
What SHOULD happen is that council members, at the very least, take a look at how the office of the mayor and the office of the city clerk are the same. The mayor’s position is an elected, citywide, officially part-time position with statutory powers. The city clerk is an elected, citywide, officially part-time position with statutory powers. They have to get the same number of signatures to get on the ballot. They go to the same meetings and they sign the same documents. Continue reading No, Daily Chronicle. The DeKalb City Clerk has Not Received a Raise
On Monday, the city council discussed the compensation ordinance that will go into effect upon installation of the city’s elected officers in May. This was just the first reading. Passage is expected during the regular council meeting on October 25.
Council at this point is on track to continue to deprive us of another election for city clerk. This body plans to pay the next mayor $22,500 per year, the next clerk $8,000.
Members seem intent on keeping the clerk a part-time position, based on a vague notion of protecting themselves from “liability,” which we know does not exist because the city has never gotten into trouble for violations of open meetings and open records laws before or after they ruined the office of the clerk.
No, the reality is that the liability works the other way. You see, while council has lots of leeway when it comes to assigning duties and setting compensation, any ordinance that passes must be reasonable. And we know that DeKalb ordinances having to do with the clerk are demonstrably unreasonable because they’ve interfered with elections of the clerk. Continue reading Council on Track to Deprive Us of Another Election
No closer than 180 days before newly-elected city officials take office next May, the city council must, per state law, set compensation for them via ordinances. This could happen tonight, at the next regular meeting, or possibly in early November if all else fails.
Compensation is set now in order to help eliminate the conflict of interest that would be created by a council’s setting its own pay, or that of a clerk they like personally. It’s supposed to be about the jobs, not the personalities involved. Continue reading DeKalb Council Will Discuss Compensation of Elected Officials Tonight
DeKalb city clerk Jenny Johnson does not know where the official seal of the city is located, or whether it is secure.
We found this out last Saturday, when she held a meeting to inform citizens of her current role, and to gather information about what we envision for the future. A dozen citizens attended, most of us members of the informal citizens’ committee called Citizens for Restoration of the DeKalb City Clerk.
Ms. Johnson explained that because of her part-time status, which she says is forced by low compensation of $5,000 per year, she felt compelled to transfer her authority over the city seal to a deputy clerk to avoid being continually on call to sign/certify/attest.
Unfortunately, the people she’s deputized are actually employees of the city manager’s office. Essentially, then, the city seal is under the control of the city manager’s office, a non-transparent arrangement that brings a slew of questions to bear about the custody and handling of official documents and use of the seal.
Yes, we’re talking about the loss of real-life “checks and balances” and what that might mean. Continue reading Questions Regarding Custody of City Seal & Handling of Documents