DeKALB – While most DeKalb aldermen are remaining tight-lipped on the matter, two are speaking out after news thatMayor Jerry Smith asked City Clerk Lynn Fazekas to resign.
First Ward Alderwoman Carolyn Morris said she wasn’t in support of the City Council’s consensus during an executive session Monday which resulted in Smith making the request of Fazekas. Morris said her attempts to convince the council otherwise were not successful. Morris issued a statement Wednesday night saying she instead suggested the city should make the position full time, and said high turnover in the past eight years has led to a “systemic problem.”
“We were not afforded the opportunity to hear [Fazekas’] opposing perspective in our closed session, though I requested it,” Morris said in her statement. “So my perspective is limited. Regardless, this was not a choice that was in keeping with the intent of providing consistent checks and balances. I attempted to convince others of these things and was unsuccessful.”
Seventh Ward Alderman Tony Faivre said he would not comment on any specific discussion held during the closed session, but said he agrees with the mayor’s statement.
“I’m in agreement with the fact that as a municipality that is trying to become more business friendly, not having the seal available during normal business hours of the city offices does not reflect our business-friendly attitude,” Faivre said Thursday.
When reached for comment, 4th Ward Alderman Patrick Fagan, 5th Ward Alderman Scott McAdams and 6th Ward Alderman Mike Verbic declined to comment since the issue was discussed in executive session. Third Ward Alderman Tracy Smith and 2nd Ward Alderman Bill Finucane did not respond to requests for comment.
Fazekas contacted area media Wednesday to clear up what she said were rumors on the matter, and said she was asked to resign her position as city clerk by the mayor Monday after a closed executive session to which was she was not invited. She refused to resign, and said she was not given any justification at the time for why Smith was asking her to leave her post, which he appointed her to in August.
Smith said Wednesday the decision came on the heels of what he said was Fazekas “impeding” the ability of the city to conduct business because she keeps the city seal, which is used to stamp and legitimize permits, licenses, resolutions and other documents, locked in her office.
Fazekas said she is limited by the part-time nature of her role, which only allows her to work about eight to 10 hours a week, and said the city code says only the city clerk is the keeper of the seal. The city code states that in the clerk’s absence, the deputy clerk can perform the same clerical duties “as if done by the city clerk personally.”
Fazekas said she has asked at least twice for the code to be clarified, and for the topic to be placed on City Council agendas in the past month to no avail. Morris said although it was not identified as such, she feels there was a vote of sorts taken, because each alderman was given the opportunity to state their opinion on the matter.
Morris said she was an outlier in the conversation, but did not confirm whether she was the only opposing voice.
“I had trouble fathoming that eight hours of stamping needed to happen and that her visiting every other day was insufficient to keep pace with the workload,” Morris said. “I also struggled because most of the ideas shared were hearsay. We did not hear from the primary people discussed, no one had the opportunity to defend themselves or explain.”
Faivre said a business owner who gets their permit approved at a City Council meeting on a Monday may come in the next morning to get the permit stamped and may find theyhave “a wasted trip,” if the seal is locked up and unable to be used by the deputy clerk.
Morris said, in hindsight, she would have preferred that both the mayor and City Manager Bill Nicklas stepped out at some point in the meeting, so that Fazekas could come in and be questioned personally by the council.
“Would you fire an employee without hearing their side?” Morris said. “I can not [sic] support this decision.”