To the Editor:
On Monday, the DeKalb city council will decide on compensation for officers elected in April. Council is leaning toward keeping the clerk part-time with compensation at $8,000.
How about what people want? Residents met with the current city clerk on October 1 to discuss her role. The talk quickly revealed that DeKalb voters feel frustrated with the city’s handling of the position, and cheated of access to an officer accountable to them via direct election. We’d always had a full-time elected clerk before, and we voted to retain what we had.
Other communities make their elected clerk the centerpiece of customer service. The clerk processes Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, issues licenses, and handles election duties. Our current clerk is absentee most days, and does not even have her own office.
Other communities – even those that appoint their clerks – can be confident that the clerk has sole custody of the city seal except for very short absences, or when adjudged by council to be incapacitated. Our clerk has totally relinquished control of the seal to an employee of the city manager’s office. She doesn’t even know where it is stored.
This is where part-time has brought us. Does it sound like the way to honor the results of the referendum that mandated an elected clerk? Customer service has gone downhill. Checks and balances have been lost. Attendees of the meeting went even further, calling it a disgrace, a joke. One pointed out that as it struggles to become business friendly, DeKalb should remember that “the citizens have business with the city, too.”
As for compensation, which most everyone at this point concedes is key to attracting candidates for next spring’s election, a disparity must be eliminated. The mayor’s office is a citywide elected office, and officially part-time. The clerk’s office is a citywide elected office, and currently also officially part-time. These officers must get the same number of signatures on ballot petitions to run and, once elected, they attend the same meetings, sign the same documents, and respond to the same public. Why then is the DeKalb city council contemplating compensation of $22,500 for the mayor and only $8,000 for the clerk?
I’d say it’s because the city doesn’t want to prevent the election of a mayor.
Editor’s Note: Lynn Fazekas is one of many DeKalb citizens involved in the effort to fully restore the office of the elected city clerk. In the 2012 election voters for the second time rejected the city manager’s attempt to take control of the independent office.
2012 General Election Ballot Question (results):
Shall the City Clerk in the City of DeKalb, Illinois be selected by the City Manager with the advice and consent of the Mayor and City Council, rather than elected?
NO 9032 total votes 70.49%
YES 3782 total votes 29.51%
Through cutting the salary and reorganizing the office — against the mandate of voters — the office of the elected city clerk no longer exists in DeKalb.