DeKALB – A city alderman says he is looking at apartments to rent after living outside of the district for five weeks.
Third Ward Alderman Victor Wogen said Tuesday that he has been living with his brother in the city’s second ward since being charged last month with domestic battery after police say he shoved his wife during an argument.
Wogen said he will be back in the ward within two weeks, though not back home.
“Within the next couple weeks I will be back in the ward and back to a somewhat normal life,” he said.
Wogen is still listed as living at 729 N. 11th St., according to City Clerk Steve Kapitan and the city’s Web site. But Kapitan said that Wogen “hasn’t indicated to us what his [current] address is.”
Because there aren’t residency requirements for aldermen spelled out in city ordinance – or what to do in circumstances like this – city officials looked to state law for guidance.
“My understanding of that is the city code is silent on that question,” Kapitan said.
According to state law, “corporate authorities” – the council and mayor – can decide when a sitting alderman’s seat becomes vacant due to his or her removal from the ward when the move is “more than temporary.”
Wogen said that he consulted with the city attorney on his living situation, who told him that living outside the ward for up to 60 days would be fine, but that 90 days “would be pushing it.”
The city council could address the third ward alderman’s seat by putting it on the agenda for a meeting, Kapitan said. Wogen would have to recuse himself from voting.
But Mayor Kris Povlsen doesn’t think it will get to that point.
“I don’t believe it will be an issue that we will have to deal with as a board unless this should drag out for a month,” he said.
Povlsen said he has spoken with Wogen about his living situation.
“He is an individual that wants to represent his citizenry while he’s going through these difficult times,” Povlsen said.
Wogen said he was “put in a tough spot and really had no options,” and that he’s still available to his constituents by phone.
The mayor also said that it goes beyond Wogen’s situation – and even beyond adding language to the city ordinance relating to aldermanic residency.
As the census approaches, Povlsen said the city will be looking into the council structure as a whole, possibly moving to an alderman-at-large approach rather than representation through geographic districts.