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Local

DeKalb mayor to vote less in future

Rey: Public questions lead to choice to limit participation

DeKalb Mayor John Rey
DeKalb Mayor John Rey

DeKALB – Mayor John Rey will no longer vote on DeKalb City Council matters unless legally required, he said at a council meeting Monday.

The mayor said that public questions prompted his decision. 

“Recently there have been some questions regarding the times I have exercised the ability to vote,” Rey said. “I believe this distracts from the business of the city and our work as a council to advance the citizens.” 

Illinois’ municipal code allows the mayor to vote in three specific cases. The first is if a vote is required to break a tie among council members. The second is if a measure requires a two-thirds “supermajority” for passage. The third is If half of the elected officials have voted in favor of a measure, effectively giving the mayor the ability to create a tie vote.

In 2012, City Council members voted unanimously to have the mayor vote on all matters before the council. The change was made under Mayor Kris Povlsen, who later decided against running for another term.

But there are few circumstances where the mayor’s vote would actually impact the outcome, City Attorney Dean Frieders said. 

Bob Snow, 4th Ward alderman, said that while whether Rey voted or not was of no matter to him, he didn’t get the fuss. Snow referred to wording in Section 5/5-3-5 of the Illinois Municipal Code, which deals with mayors in cities where aldermen are elected by wards, as DeKalb’s are.

“It’s amazing how many people read half the paragraph and ignore the last half,” he said. “Reading there, the plain language of this statute, ’The following mayors or presidents, may vote on all questions coming before the council, those operating under this article and article 5.’ It seems pretty clear to me.” 

One case where the mayor’s vote could have swayed the outcome of the council decision was in a February vote where the council ultimately decided to hire Kansas-based CivicPlus to redesign and maintain its website. Rey and three council members voted in favor of hiring the company, with four other council members opposed. Eventually, CivicPlus agreed to halve a rush charge for the project, convincing 6th Ward Alderman Dave Baker to change his vote to yes.

Misty Haji-Sheikh, DeKalb County Board member from District 7 and a DeKalb resident, was one of those who questioned whether the mayor should be voting on all issues. She said if Rey does abstain from voting except in specific circumstances – and the city changes its local laws on when the mayor votes – she would be satisfied, with one caveat.

“That is, I think they need to go back and revisit some of these votes where he voted and he shouldn’t have, such as with CivicPlus,” she said.

Council members did not say they had any plans to revisit any votes Monday. Rey said that although he will vote less frequently, he still will weigh in on topics and give his opinion. 

“I will share my perspective with the public and members of the council verbally or by noting my position for the record from time to time,” he said. “It is my goal is to move beyond the distractions. This procedural change will be in that light.” 

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