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. Read the rest of this entry

***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. Read the rest of this entry

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. Read the rest of this entry

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. Read the rest of this entry

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. Read the rest of this entry

City Pay Raises Approved

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. Read the rest of this entry

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.* Read the rest of this entry

Click here for the campaign Facebook page, new today.

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.

[Correction 2/10: It is the liquor commissioner (mayor) who issues liquor licenses, not the city clerk. See this post for more information.]

If your inner entrepreneur is telling you that bar ownership in DeKalb is worthy of some capital, here are a few things you need to know about obtaining a liquor license for your business. (Keep in mind, these tips are no substitute for professional legal counsel.)

Bona fide sale. Bona fide sale shall mean a sale of a liquor business for real value where the sale includes the purchase of fixtures, equipment, good will or the like. Such sale shall not include the liquor license.

Even in buying an existing business, then, you must start from scratch with the liquor license application. Licenses are not transferable.

A significant and potentially time-consuming part of the process is to ensure you are not a crook [insert joke here about limiting competition — bah-dum-bum!] and that you have the money to prove it. Read the rest of this entry

The new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) legislation has an effective date of January 2010, but DeKalb’s Office of the City Clerk will not not wait until then to begin implementing policy and procedural changes in fulfilling FOIA requests.

In fact, at least two changes — that of charging for copies of documents only after the first 50 pages, and charging .15 per page copied — have already been made by the office on an informal basis, according to Steve Kapitan, who has been working as Clerk for about three months. The old practice was to begin charging for copies after the first 15 pages, he said.

“Now that the law has been signed I will be changing the policy formally, including making a change on the FOIA forms in the office and on the web site,” said Kapitan, who also stated an intention to calculate and charge the exact cost of copying. Read the rest of this entry