DeKALB – City Clerk Lynn Fazekas kept her promise to take the city to court over recent changes to the powers of her office, filing a lawsuit asking a DeKalb County judge to declare the new rules unconstitutional.
Fazekas filed the suit in DeKalb County court on Tuesday. In it, she contends the city violated Article VII, section 6 of the Illinois Constitution "by altering it's form of government" when council approved changes to the office at Monday's City Council meeting. Fazekas said the clerk is an elected office and believes the vote was unconstitutional.
"The city is under the impression that it is lawful," Fazekas said. "However, it is not, and that is the kind of thing we have the court for. Let the court decide."
The council amended city code to eliminate the deputy clerk position, assigning the deputy's former duties to the executive assistant to the city manager, currently Ruth Scott. The amendment also gives Scott authority to affix the City Seal, used to stamp documents, when Fazekas, who's role will remain elected and part-time, is available.
Fazekas is being represented by Sycamore-based law firm Cronauer Law, LLP, which includes attorney Nicholas Cronauer, who is suing City Manager Bill Nicklas in federal court over loss of $2.5 million in tax increment finance funds he was seeking to redevelop the former St. Mary's Hospital at 145 Fisk Ave. Cronauer's lawsuit alleges Nicklas wanted to steer TIF funds to Geneva-based developer Shodeen Group, rather than the developers, and seeks damages of more than $2.5 million for defamation also.
Fazekas said Monday she would not comply with the new rules , and would continue to bar Scott from using the seal. Nicklas said the city is ordering a new seal for Scott to use.
"Otherwise [Fazekas is] going to continue to hoard this," Nicklas said Wednesday. "We have to continue to do the city's business. So we've ordered a seal and we should get it in a few days."
City attorney Matt Rose insists the city has authority because DeKalb is a home rule municipality.
"The ordinance does not 'alter' the clerk's office," Rose said in an email statement sent to Mayor Jerry Smith and the council Wednesday.
"Nothing in the constitution or municipal code make the clerk's duties exclusive to the clerk," Rose continued. "The statutes expressly allow the council to exercise control over the retention of any deputy clerk."
When asked if she would run for the clerk position when the position comes up in the consolidated local election set for April 2021, Fazekas didn't rule it out, but said her priority is the present.
"I'm not saying that I will run but it's certainly something that I think a whole lot about," she said. "My more immediate goal here is I really want to leave the office better than I found it. There are so many things to work toward up to 2021, and whether or not I would have or want a role beyond that, I really couldn't tell you."
This is a developing story. Stay tuned for updates.