So I am tickled pink that four citizens stepped up to file as write in candidates for DeKalb City Clerk. Thanks to the Mayor and City Council there were no candidate petitions filed for the City Clerk position. Without a write in candidate the Mayor would have appointed the position for the next four years. That would have been a shame because that’s not what voters wanted.
Now here’s the shocker:
Steve Kapitan must think he meets the minimum standards he set for the stripped down elected City Clerk position he resigned from, semi-officially, for not being able to produce closed meeting minutes in a manner timely enough to comply with the Open Meetings Act. The full official version for his sudden resignation is silenced as a condition of a $10,000 severance pay paid to Kapitan. [BREAKING NEWS] Kapitan breaks vow of silence
The Mayor and Council were evidently so concerned with the amount of taxpayer dollars wasted by Kapitan’s term as City Clerk that they almost immediately gutted the City Clerk department. The City Clerk position itself was reduced to a part time position reducing the annual salary of around $60,ooo plus full benefits to a flat $5,000 cost.
Before Kapitan the department was independent of the City Manager and Council. Kapitan had allowed the full time deputy clerk position to be eliminated from his budget shortly after getting elected and before having gained any knowledge or experience of the job. Had he not allowed that loss of a full time employee he likely wouldn’t have had a problem getting minutes taken. After Kapitan the deputy clerk position was recreated under the City Manager’s budget.
The Mayor and City Council then sought the elimination of an elected clerk altogether and placed a referendum on the November 2012 ballot asking voters if they wanted the City Clerk to be an appointed position under the control of the City Manager. Of the total of 14189 referendum ballots cast 70% voted no thanks.
But the watered-down part time $5,000 position required as many signatures on a City Clerk candidate’s petition as did the candidates for Mayor which pays much better. Some of the aldermen who voted to gut the position and reduce the pay were required to get less than 20 signatures on their petition. Thus no one circulated a petition. Go figure.
The write in candidates:
Liz Cliffe Peerboom was employed as the full time deputy clerk. She finished runner-up to Kapitan in the 2009 elections in a five person race to succeed Donna Johnson as the elected City Clerk. She left to become City Clerk for the Village of Maple Park (part time) where she promptly won a statewide award for “2011 Municipal Rookie of the Year.” Maple Park together with the City of DeKalb, submitted an application recognizing her contributions to the review committee. Peerboom is well qualified for the newly recreated, higher paying with full benefits deputy clerk position and I thought that was where she would end up. But I thought that when Peerboom applied for the appointment by Mayor Kris Povlsen to replace Kapitan due to his sudden resignation. She is hardworking and well versed in the role and responsibilities of a municipal clerk. In that role Peerboom is a consummate “keeper of the public records.”
During discussions on trimming the City Clerk’s position the council heard from citizens about the importance of an elected clerk being a “watch dog” of municipal government. The council didn’t like it. So they put the referendum question on the ballot. If the voters chose to keep the position elected because they wanted a “watch dog” the newly defined elected clerk could do just that.
There’s not a better government “watch dog” in DeKalb than Lynn Fazekas. She’s passionate about open books and public access. She likely tops the list of 4th ward Alderman Brendon Gallagher’s Repeat Offenders for filing FOIA requests. Fazekas championed government transparency before it became politically correct. She publishes City Barbs and is highly regarded on blogs throughout the state for her political commentary. Fazekas would not be under the control of the City Manager as she is often a critic of City Hall. She’s also a great writer with advanced computer skills the City of DeKalb could really use in communicating the business of government to the citizens. Fazekas entered the DeKalb political scene with an unsuccessful bid for Mayor in the 2009 elections.
Leonard LeGrand is introducing himself to the DeKalb political scene. According to this report by the Daily Chronicle LeGrand is employed by NIU and is an aspiring student of local government. One prerequisite for the newly created scaled down version of City Clerk is the ability to moonlight.
Whoever wins the election will make $5,000 annually for the next four years for their work. The City Council determines the salary of the City Clerk and any raise to an elected official cannot take effect until the next term begins. To keep the City of DeKalb from violating the Illinois Minimum Wage law the elected City Clerk would be limited to 12 hours per week. Kapitan is employed at Jewel/Osco and has moonlighted throughout a career in local politics as an alderman and City Clerk. Peerboom is currently the Village of Maple Park municipal clerk which is a part time position. Fazekas is self employed in financial and training services. LeGrand works at NIU.
We’ve learned Kapitan has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and I wish him well in his treatment. But somehow I can’t see voters rewarding his devaluation of the City Clerk position. His severance pay was equal to two years salary of the restructured position. Any argument against the City Clerk as an elected position is moot in the City of DeKalb — by a 70% to 30% margin in a record turnout Presidential election. This is a city with 40,000 people and a four year university.
We can do without party favors this time. No more entitled candidates.
Best wishes to all of the write in candidates in their efforts to restore the position of DeKalb City Clerk to the level of public trust voters deserve.