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Editorials

Our View: Ask DeKalb voters if they want full-time clerk

The DeKalb Municipal Building Friday July 6, 2018.
The DeKalb Municipal Building Friday July 6, 2018.

The DeKalb City Council now appears unlikely to try to change the city clerk position from an elected to an appointed position, and City Clerk Lynn Fazekas appears to have no intention of resigning.

The prudent thing to do next seems to be to ask citizens if they want a full-time city clerk managing their own office at city hall, or a part-time clerk who plays a greatly reduced role. Some, including Fazekas, claim that a full-time clerk is what the public wants – let’s see if that’s true.

Voters have said twice that they want the position to remain elected, and if you read the law the way DeKalb County State’s Attorney Rick Amato does, that is the only way the position can be changed.

Asking voters to make the clerk an appointed position a third time, as we recommended earlier, may be less productive than asking what they want the job to be. They weren’t consulted when the clerk’s hours were cut from full- to part-time in 2013, after all.

A referendum on making the clerk full-time should specify the cost to the public in pay and benefits – the salary probably would be somewhere in the $60,000- to $70,000-a-year range.

There could be some upside to a full-time clerk system, which seems to work well enough in Sycamore and would probably inspire real competition at the ballot box.

We probably would oppose such a proposition, however. In this era of high property taxes and rising pension obligations, adding to the government payroll should be avoided, whether it’s adding a full-time clerk or another employee to work in the clerk’s office. There already are people on staff in DeKalb who have shown they can do the work, including during long periods when the clerk’s office has been vacant.

But if DeKalb voters say they want a full-time clerk again, they should have it. If they don’t, there may be little that can be done except wait for another election and see if Fazekas seeks election and if the public supports her.

The latest attempted solution to this issue appears to be a proposed ordinance that would permit both the clerk and a deputy appointed by City Manager Bill Nicklas’ office to possess the city seal. DeKalb’s city code already permits a deputy clerk to perform the clerk’s duties when the clerk is not present, and this workaround would prevent the clerk from keeping the city seal out of the hands of a deputy.

The law gives the clerk the power to be “keeper of the city seal,” however. It doesn’t say anything about a deputy.

We would like to see this matter resolved in one way or another. It has been a recurring source of conflict since the position was changed from full- to part-time.

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