Belleville has new city attorney; Hayden, Hult vote against

News-DemocratMay 20, 2013 

— Garrett P. Hoerner will start serving as the new city attorney Tuesday after the City Council approved his appointment 11-2 on Monday.

Hoerner, 41, is a partner in the Belleville law firm of Becker, Paulson, Hoerner & Thompson. He will earn $109,647 a year. Hoerner said Monday night he has not worked out whether he will participate in the city's healthcare and pension plan.

Hoerner has represented various metro-east towns and school districts, such as the village of Cahokia and East St. Louis School District 189.

In April, Thom Peters was appointed interim city attorney to replace Patrick "Mike" Flynn, who did not seek reappointment after serving the past year. Flynn replaced longtime city attorney Robert Sprague.

Prior to going into executive session to discuss Hoerner's appointment, Belleville aldermen asked about his political affiliations. However, Peters said it's unlawful and discriminatory for council members to ask about Hoerner's political beliefs.

Hoerner's law firm donated $1,000 to Mayor Mark Eckert's re-election campaign in August, according to reports filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Melinda Hult of Ward 2 and Joe Hayden of Ward 5 cast the votes against Hoerner's appointment. Aldermen Trent Galetti and Phil Silsby were absent, and one Ward 4 seat remains unfilled.

Hayden said the city attorney should be apolitical, and be neutral in advising the mayor and council and in representing residents.

"I look forward to working with all the aldermen on the City Council as well as city representatives," Hoerner said after the meeting. He said he is honored to be appointed city attorney.

In other business, the council approved all of the mayor's appointments for department head and staff appointments for the next year.

The council also approved paying Thiems Construction $10,233 for extra work to build a berm and spillway at Bicentennial Park to prevent future soil erosion and flooding issues.

Some council members debated whether the city should pay the contractor since the work wasn't put out for bid though it surpassed the $10,000 limit required by city ordinance. Aldermen also questioned why there wasn't a memo or special meeting to inform them of the issue.

Belleville engineer Tim Gregowicz said emergency damage had to be addressed at the park right away after 5 inches of rain hammered the city April 18. City officials also didn't expect the cost to be more than $10,000.

"It was an act of God and that contract should be paid by force account," Gregowicz said.

At the onset of Monday's meeting, the City Council had a moment of silence for the victims of the Oklahoma tornado and Paul Klingler, a Belleville Township trustee and former Belleville alderman, who died Monday from illness.

Mary McHugh, who served on the Belleville Township Board with Klingler, said he was a leader, especially in the Franklin Neighborhood in Belleville, and a skilled carpenter.

"He helped rehab the Franklin Neighborhood Association house and there will be a big hole in the neighborhood now that he's gone," McHugh said. "He had a lot of clout. People listened to what he had to say and he was usually right."

He was re-elected though he was too sick with heart issues to campaign for most of election season, McHugh said.

"Paul always thought he would get better. He would say, 'It's tough but I'm going to bounce back.'"

Klingler was a lifelong resident of Belleville and has been married to his wife, Shirley, for 62 years. He is the father of two children, grandfather of four grandchildren, and great grandfather to four great grandchildren.

He was a carpenter for 62 years and a former Marine who served in World War II and the Korean War.

He served as an alderman of Ward 2 for 28 years and was a member of the Southside Improvement Association, American Legion, St. Clair County Lodge No. 24, York Rite, Scottish Rite and Shriner of the Ainad Temple.

Reporters Jamie Forsythe and Daniel Kelley contributed information to the article. Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.

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