DeKALB – After weeks of contentious debate and outcry from residents, City Manager Bill Nicklas now is recommending the city clerk position remain an elected one, not appointed, and that the deputy clerk should get her own city seal.
Nicklas said Thursday he changed his mind after consulting with the public.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people, a lot of people who are longtime residents,” Nicklas said. “I’ve talked to people who could give me some legal guidance and advice. And my view is that what is proposed is the best course going forward. My main interest here is that all the things the public needs are going to be provided and their needs are going to be met.”
Fazekas could not be reached for comment.
Nicklas’ decision is a reversal of his previous proposal earlier this month, when he recommended the council vote to make the city clerk role an appointed one.
Set for what would be the deciding second-reading vote on the matter, Monday’s City Council agenda shows changes to two proposed ordinances which would better clarifiy the clerk and deputy clerk roles in the DeKalb Municipal Code and take the clerk off future ballots.
The changed ordinances would leave the position an elected one, and also ensure the deputy clerk has her own seal, and any person who serves as the deputy clerk would also remain a city employee under the supervision of the city manager. Nicklas cites city municipal code section 3.14 in his ordinance explanations.
A growing rift between the city manager’s and City Clerk Lynn Fazekas’ office surfaced after Fazekas notified local media late July that Mayor Jerry Smith had asked her to resign on July 22, which she refused. Smith said Fazekas had “impeded” city business by keeping the city seal, used to approve documents, locked up, inhibiting deputy clerk Ruth Scott, who is also the executive assistant to the city manager, from doing her job.
In the weeks following, city staff sought to amend the nature of the clerk position, a move that was opposed by Fazekas.
Through a 5-3 vote Aug. 12, (with 1st Ward Alderman Carolyn Morris, 2nd Ward Alderman Bill Finucane, and 5th Ward Alderman Scott McAdams voting against) the council gave preliminary approval to two proposals: one to clarify duties of the office in the code, and another to make the position appointed instead of elected.
Attempts to waive the second reading failed on both ordinances, despite the same 5-3 vote, because waiving the second reading requires supermajority approval from six of eight aldermen, according to the city’s code.
That council meeting drew heavy criticism from a group of residents in support of Fazekas, causing DeKalb County State’s Attorney Rick Amato to weigh in, pointing out that residents have twice voted in referenda to leave the position an elected one.
Fazekas on Monday removed Scott from her deputy position, and two hours later, Nicklas reappointed her. In a post to her City Barbs Blog Facebook page, Fazekas indicated she does not consider Scott her deputy any more.
“Lynn will need to think that through and work it out,” Nicklas said Thursday. “It’s all about serving the public. I know we can be helpful. No one knows the range of duties better than Ruth. She’s been doing it for five years. I hope that Lynn will take into consideration.”