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 even 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
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. Continue reading Want Candidates for DeKalb City Clerk? The First Step is to Restore the Compensation
***Update 5:45 p.m.*** The Facebook discussion on this post is here.
I’m going to ask you to set aside for a few moments everything you’ve heard about why Steve Kapitan resigned as DeKalb city clerk in 2012. Instead, I’d like for you to entertain the possibility that he was a casualty of a DeKalb city government intent on exchanging its elected city clerk for an appointed clerk for quite some time. Continue reading Forget What You’ve Heard about Steve Kapitan’s Resignation as City Clerk
We know from our recent examination of the doctrine of incompatible offices that compromising the loyalty of an elected officer is prohibited. A person holding elected office cannot hold any other role — as employee, appointee, or a second elected office — that could reasonably be expected to conflict, or even appear to conflict, with the first elected office. A person occupying elected office has one loyalty, and that’s to the electorate. Nobody else is the elected person’s boss.
In DeKalb government, this is true of city council members and the city clerk. Both are elected positions and nobody should buy the story that any of these elected officers are also employees of the municipality, for to do so invites perversion of the original intent of an elected office.
As we saw in the post about incompatible offices, however, DeKalb holds itself to no such standard, but instead chooses to create confusion by pretending that the city clerk’s position comprises a dual role, that of officer and employee at the same time.
Moreover, some of the offenses committed against the doctrine of incompatible offices are way worse than the confusion sown verbally by city staff. For reasons we will examine at a later date, the corporate authority (city council) of DeKalb has in recent years approved ordinances in line with an appointed clerk instead of an elected one. In a very real way, the corporate authority has usurped the statutory powers placed with the elected city clerk and vested them in the city manager. Continue reading DeKalb Voters Think City Clerk is an Elected Office. DeKalb’s Ordinances Say Otherwise
DeKalb isn’t particularly good at observing boundaries. One example is that DeKalb’s contracted attorney is allowed to sit with the city council during planning sessions as an assistant in setting strategic priorities. In other words, a contractor gets to step out of his assigned role to provide unfettered input into public policy that the public itself never gets to enjoy.
But while the attorney’s extra privileges are plenty objectionable from an ethics standpoint, the most egregious errors in failing to maintain separation of roles have arguably come about in DeKalb’s dealings with the city clerk’s office beginning in 2012, when clerk Steve Kapitan was forced to resign. Here’s what city staff said about it at the time (my emphases):
[City manager Mark] Biernacki explained that because of Kapitan’s unique situation as both an elected official and city employee, certain confidentiality rights are in place.
“The city, as the former employer of Mr. Kapitan, has certain obligations to keep his personal records confidential,” said city attorney Dean Frieders…
City of DeKalb again combined the roles of city employee and city clerk when Diane Wright was appointed in Kapitan’s place later that year, yet also kept her administrative job with the city (again, my emphasis):
With recent changes in City Hall staffing, a proposal has been developed to provide more efficient use of City personnel to perform administrative functions for the City, by utilizing the currently serving Acting City Clerk in a dual role as City Clerk and Executive Secretary.
These moves are problematic specifically because citizens of DeKalb have voted twice in the past 10 years to retain their municipal clerk as an elected position. While certainly “unique” and possibly even “efficient,” these elected official-city employee hybrids are not allowed under Illinois law. Elected officers are intended to serve only one master, and that’s the electorate. Continue reading City of DeKalb and Its Incompatible Offices
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. Continue reading City of DeKalb is Not the Authority on Whether We Elect a Clerk in the Spring
In reading the agenda for last night’s meeting, I noticed council members were getting set to “reconsider” Resolution 13-56, the same one they shot down last meeting that would have given the contracted attorney a 2% raise.
I would’ve liked to have read a summary of the contentious June 24 discussion, but alas! I couldn’t find the regular meeting minutes in the agenda packet, nor was approval of those minutes part of last night’s agenda. Wonder what’s going on in the clerk’s office that they’re running late on something so basic?
Anyway, after two weeks of the miracle of “reconsidering,” the lawyer and others will now enjoy 2% increases; and apparently anything less now constitutes abuse of city staff. Continue reading City Pay Raises Approved
Last week I shared with you my observations of the June 11 meeting between the council and the city’s financial consultants. One thing I noted, but hadn’t taken action on, was this:
Some of the recommendations in the report were apparently redacted. (See PDF pp. 108 and 110.) This is inappropriate for a public record unless an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act is claimed.
Well, guess what? A reader picked up on the issue, and requested through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) the blacked-out items. Here’s the wording of the specific request:
I am requesting a Listing of Items (recommendations and $ Impact) redacted on the 2013 DeKalb EPI report under Summary of Key recommendations Medical cost containment review items: C3 and C4. Also a listing of Department Efficiencies Analysis and Outsourcing Review: item B1
Now let’s look at the response.* Continue reading City of DeKalb Has Nothing Better to Do Than Play Games with FOIA
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Click here for my answers to the Daily Chronicle editorial board’s questions for DeKalb city clerk candidates.
Watch for my guest post at DeKalb County Online, coming soon.
I do not have plans for a campaign website, and of course I will not use City Barbs for campaigning. The FB page is it — along with the other sites listed above plus any other public forums all the candidates can use.