DeKalb City Clerk: Appointed or Elected

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Monday night City Council meeting will have on the agenda the future of the DeKalb City Clerk. The position of City Clerk in DeKalb, as in most Illinois localities, reflects both the rise of government in civil affairs, code changes and the increasing professionalization of the functions in the role of City Clerk in municipal government.

There have been two referendums passed in the City of DeKalb that the role of City Clerk is elected. In the past 10 years,  there have been eight people filling the role of City Clerk, both elected and appointed. Two of the past eight were elected but resigned from office after concerns of fulfilling the requirements of the job. Two of the appointed left after an election year provided another candidate. 

The concern for some DeKalb citizens is the person filling the role of an elected position is the lack of skill requirements required to fulfill the mission as a City Clerk. The basic requirement is they only need to be 21 years of age or older, a DeKalb resident, and could not have committed a felony. This is also a list of duties posted on the City of DeKalb webpage.

The concern from other DeKalb citizens is the person filling the role of an elected clerk creates a check and balance for the city government. An elected cleck is a keeper of the records and enforcer of rules set forth by the council and Mayor. This can be a full-time job just keeping track of new rules and ordinances. In an interview with a former city staff member, JoEllen Charlton, DeKalb has an ordinate number of rules, ordinances, and regulations.

“In all the cities I have worked with or been involved with, DeKalb has more rules and ordinances than any other city. In fact, there seems to rules for the rules”, said Charlton. 

DeKalb Second Ward  Councilmember Bill Finucane said he still wants the citizens to still be able to elect a city clerk, yet is looking for a compromise with those who want to see that elected official position end. Finucane said he plans to present a proposal at Monday’s council meeting when the council is slated to consider a measure that would allow the mayor, rather than voters, to select the city clerk.

Last week Finucane made a proposal that would keep the clerk an elected position with part-time hours and salary. He also proposed that the mayor appoint a deputy clerk in consultation with the City Council and city manager, from a group of trained city staff. Finucane said he already had approached other council members individually and hoped the compromise plan would be adopted. 

Currently, the deputy clerk is appointed by the acting city clerk but chosen from an approved list provided by the city manager. Because of the part-time status, there is a need for a deputy clerk to service the business hours of City Hall.

For those citizens wanting to express their opinion on this issue at tonight’s meeting, please arrive early and fill out a speaker’s request form. The Mayor holds the rule limiting speakers to three minutes.

Ordinance 2019-054 Amending Chapter 3 “City Administration”, Section 3.14 “City Clerk”. City Manager Summary: In varying ways, Ordinance 2019-054 and Ordinance 2019- 055 describe a breakdown in the professionalism and responsibilities expected of an elected office, not to mention an appointed officer. For reasons that are documented herein, City Clerk Lynn Fazekas has failed to fulfill her statutory duties and has impeded the business of the City.

Ordinance 2019-054 allows the City to overcome the deficiencies in the City Clerk’s office for the balance of Ms. Fazekas’ appointive term by further authorizing the City’s Executive Assistant and Deputy City Clerk, Ruth Scott, to perform such duties. Ms. Scott has performed many of the functions of the Office of City Clerk during the quixotic period that began with Steve Kapitan’s resignation in 2012.

Ordinance 2019-055 provides that the office of City Clerk shall hereafter be an appointive office, within the legal guidelines for this constitutional office. The City Clerk shall hereafter be appointed by the Mayor with the approval of the City Council and may be removed as an appointed officer pursuant to 65 ILCS 5/3.1-35-10. 

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