Eckert to appoint former alderman as interim city attorney

News-DemocratApril 27, 2013 

— Mayor Mark Eckert said he will recommend a Belleville attorney and former alderman to serve as interim city attorney.

Thom Peters, a partner at Boyle Brasher LLC, would serve until the city finds a permanent replacement for Patrick "Mike" Flynn, who did not seek reappointment, Eckert said.

Aldermen will vote on the appointments for city attorney and assistant city attorney at the end-of-the-year City Council meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in the City Council Chambers at City Hall, 101 S. Illinois St.

Eckert said Friday he is taking resumes for the city attorney position and "being very open" about the candidates.

Eckert said he would ask Peters to fill the role permanently but "Thom just does not have the time with his practice."

Peters said he cannot be, and does not intend to be, the city attorney full time.

"I don't want to create the impression that I'm staying in this job," Peters said. "I don't think I have to take a salary. If I have to, I'll donate it to the Police Department or something."

Eckert said he asked Peters to serve because he is a knowledgeable, well-respected lawyer who gives good, honest advice and is committed to Belleville.

Peters served as a Ward 7 alderman from June 2004 until April 2006. He was appointed to the position by former Belleville Mayor Mark Kern in 2004, and then elected under Kern and Eckert's Good Government Party in 2005 to a four-year term.

Peters said that, when he resigned in 2006, he did so because his job as an attorney kept him out of town for weeks at a time.

Before Peters was alderman, he served for eight years on the city's Zoning Board of Appeals.

In recent years, Eckert appointed Peters to a joint review board that reviews the city's tax increment financing districts on an annual basis.

Peters served first on a committee to help the city find ways to save money in 2010 when the city was eliminating jobs through layoffs and early retirements. Then he served on a committee in 2011 that looked for alternatives to the city's unpopular wheel tax.

Eckert also will recommend appointing Flynn's son, Brian Flynn, as assistant city attorney.

"We need that continuity," Eckert said.

Brian Flynn works for his father's Belleville law firm, Flynn, Guymon & Garavalia.

Eckert appointed Mike Flynn as city attorney last May with the understanding that attorneys at his firm would absorb the assistant attorney duties. Only Mike Flynn got insurance and pension benefits.

"(Brian Flynn) ended up being the one that did the work and he did a good job," Eckert said.

Mike Flynn became city attorney when Robert Sprague resigned after serving more than 30 years in the position.

Before Mike Flynn was city attorney, he served as assistant city attorney since 1974. Mike Flynn briefly served as city attorney when Sprague left the position to be an associate judge.

"It's been a long run," Mike Flynn said.

Eckert said Mike Flynn announced he would not seek reappointment shortly after the April 9 municipal election. Mayoral appointments are typically made at the first City Council meeting in May.

"It surprised me, it really did," Eckert said. "I did not see that one coming."

Eckert said the city will be losing an attorney who was extremely dedicated to the city, knowledgeable of municipal law and "could have charged a lot more money."

For the upcoming fiscal year, the city has budgeted $109,647 in salary for the city attorney and $53,613 in salary for the assistant city attorney, according to Finance Director Jamie Maitret. The figures exclude costs for health insurance and pension plans.

In 2011, Belleville's total spending for legal representation of $201,894 was less than at least two other municipalities smaller in population, Fairview Heights and Collinsville.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.

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