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