Belleville council appoints interim city attorney, despite questions

News-DemocratApril 29, 2013 

— Aldermen voted 11-3 to appoint Thom Peters as interim city attorney for Belleville, though some council members questioned his public service record, neutrality and legal opinions.

The City Council at the special, end-of-the-year meeting on Monday also unanimously voted to appoint Brian Flynn as the assistant city attorney.

Peters is a partner at Boyle Brasher LLC in Belleville and a former Ward 7 alderman. He will replace Patrick "Mike" Flynn, who did not seek reappointment after serving in the post for the past year.

Mike Flynn's son, Brian Flynn, works at Flynn, Guymon & Garavalia in Belleville, and did most of the duties of the assistant city attorney for the past year, Eckert said.

On the vote to appoint Peters, Ward 2 Alderwoman Melinda Hult, Ward 5 Alderman Joe Hayden and Ward 7 Alderwoman Lillian Schneider voted "no."

Ward 3 Alderman Rob Anderson and Ward 4 Alderman Tim Carpenter were absent.

Hayden said he cannot support Peters -- may his appointment be for a day, a month or a year -- because of Peters' opinions on tax increment financing districts and bias against aldermen who are independents.

Peters was first appointed a Ward 7 alderman and then elected, from June 2004 to April 2006, as part of Eckert's Good Government Party.

Hayden said he has "no faith and confidence (Peters) can provide a neutral opinion" and good legal advice.

Hult said Peters missed 45 percent of meetings when he was alderman. She also said she was concerned with the vagueness of the phrase, "short term," and preferred Peters to be appointed for a set time frame.

Eckert said Peters has no interest in serving long-term.

"If Thom has his way, he wants to be out of this position by June 1," Eckert said.

In public participation, Belleville resident and landlord Rick Brown said Peters is like "the ghost of Christmas past."

Brown said Peters gave bad legal advice in 1999 when he condoned retroactively rezoning homes in Belleville from multi-family designations to single-family.

Resident Rose Wilson responded to Brown's comments by saying that Peters is very qualified and, after all, the appointment is temporary.

Also on Monday:

* The city gave plaques to honor outgoing members of the council and attendees had a standing ovation for City Clerk Linda Fields.

Fields has worked for the city as an employee or elected official since 1978.

The other officials recognized were Anderson, City Treasurer Jerry Turner, Ward 4 Alderman Dean Hardt, Ward 6 Alderman Dave Martinson and Ward 7 Alderman Phil Elmore.

Hardt was elected city treasurer.

Eckert said he held off on recognizing Carpenter and Ward 2 Alderwoman Dorothy Meyer because those candidates might still contest election results.

* The City Council voted 14-0 to approve an additional $90,000 in tax increment financing funds from TIF District No. 1 to redevelop the old YMCA.

The incentives will help a Swansea businessman rehabilitate the vacant, deteriorating historic building at 15 N. First St. and move his employees there.

The city will now give $334,000 instead of $230,000. Of that, $34,000 is in the form of a sales tax abatement for building materials.

The money will be used to replace the roof, asbestos and mold remediation, and to install an elevator and lift to comply with the American with Disabilities Act.

Kurt Artinger, chief executive officer of Replacement Services LLC, said final project costs went from $730,000 to $978,000 because bids were higher than expected.

Artinger will give an additional $124,000, bringing his personal investment from $500,000 on the first phase to $624,000.

* Aldermen voted 14-0 to approve renovation plans for the Gustave Koerner House, a property at 200 Abend St. that the city owns.

The Koerner House Committee asked city officials to approve plans prepared by architect David Leonatti. When funds become available, the committee plans to add a metal roof, heating and cooling, plumbing and electrical outlets. The plans also include configuring a west side porch in its original design.

* Alderwoman Schneider was designated an alderman-at-large, with a focus on Ward 7.

Schneider was elected to represent Ward 7 until 2015. However, her home is now in the boundaries of Ward 1 because of the city's recent redistricting.

Schneider and Ward 1 Alderman Michael Heisler drew lots Monday to see who would be a Ward 1 alderman and who would serve at-large.

Heisler and Ken Kinsella will continue to be aldermen of Ward 1.

Mike Flynn said his research shows the two aldermen in Ward 1 whose terms expire in 2015 should draw lots. He said he did not find any case law, only an opinion from the attorney general, on a comparable case.

Schneider asked to play an audio recording of when Eckert and former City Attorney Bob Sprague said she would serve at-large when the redistricting went into effect, but Eckert said no. Sprague simply did not fully research the matter a year ago, Eckert said.

Eckert denied rumors that he plans to appoint someone to fill Schneider's Ward 7 seat.

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

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