A former village trustee who resigned her seat Dec. 20 set off a firestorm at this week’s village board meeting when she showed up saying she wanted her seat back.
Carlene Tucker hand-delivered a letter to Mayor Ann Rodgers, saying she had changed her mind. However, Rodgers last month replaced Tucker on the board with Marcus Henderson with a 30-day appointment and said the seat is no longer open.
It’s still unclear whether Tucker could change her mind and expect to be returned to the office to which she was elected after giving it up. She argues that since her letter of resignation was not notarized, it did not meet the standard set by state law.
It was a contentious and emotionally charged village board meeting Wednesday night, with much of the focus centered on Tucker.
Tucker was supposed to be named the village’s Civil Defense director instead. Rodgers said she learned that Tucker was attempting to reclaim her seat on the village board shortly before the meeting began.
Prior to her resignation, Tucker led an effort to fire Ray Coleman, who is the paid village consultant to Rodgers. She has maintained the village cannot afford Coleman, who makes $60,000 a year. Tucker’s resignation resulted in there not being enough votes on the board to fire Coleman.
After Wednesday’s meeting, Tucker said she was only being given the civil defense job so she could retain the $500-a-month salary she was getting as a trustee. She said Rodgers and Coleman don’t want her to return to the board for fear she may once again try to get rid of Coleman.
Coleman was not at the meeting, but in the past has denied accusations that everything in the village must go through him.
Tucker said she would once again seek to terminate Coleman’s contract if she’s reinstated. She said nothing happens in Washington Park without Coleman’s involvement. And she along with trustees James Madkins and Clyde “Stonewall” Jackson said they are not being given the opportunity to speak out on issues and do not feel they are being allowed to fairly represent the people who voted for them.
Jackson and others called the current administration a “dictatorship.”
“She (Rodgers) uses that gavel to drown us out if we attempt to say something. But, those individuals who are in support of what she is saying are allowed to speak,” he said.
Village Clerk Ricky Thomas agreed that Rodgers uses the gavel excessively to drown out certain trustees who have an issue with something she is doing. He said it’s happened to him.
“I am not out of order when I am calling the roll. That’s my job,” Thomas said. “They think they can do what they want to do.”
She (Rodgers) uses that gavel to drown us out if we attempt to say something. But, those individuals who are in support of what she is saying are allowed to speak.
Washington Park Trustee Clyde ‘Stonewall’ Jackson
Thomas is running for mayor against Rodgers in the April municipal election.
Rodgers said what happened Wednesday night was “a farce.” She said it was being played out because of a residency requirement ordinance that was on the agenda. She said some elected officials do not live in Washington Park, including Thomas, who denies the accusation.
Rodgers said she brought the residency issue to the attention of State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly, and was told “the village needed to adopt an ordinance before he could act on these issues. Hence the ordinance,” she said.
Kelly later said, “I am not familiar with what she’s talking about. My office has no involvement with village ordinances. It sounds like she is confusing some issues.”
Rodgers and her supporters said with their acceptance of Tucker’s resignation letter last month, they’ve moved on.
According to Chapter 65 of the Municipal Code, Section 3.1-10-50 (a), “A vacancy by resignation is not effective unless it is in writing, signed by the person holding the elective office and notarized.” Tucker said she did not turn in a notarized letter of resignation.
Village Attorney Eric Evans was not at the meeting. He said later that he had to research the law, but that Tucker may have a problem because it’s been more than 30 days since she resigned.
“My eyes are open now. For 31/2 years I voted with them. It was all about their agenda,” Tucker said.
As the back-and-forth continued, Trustee Shawn Newell stood at his seat and said to the audience, “See what we have to go through?”
Tucker arrived at the meeting Wednesday night and after meeting briefly twice with Rodgers in an adjoining room, she took her seat on the board. Henderson, her appointed replacement, sat next to her.
Then an angry Rodgers stood in front of her seat and in a very loud voice addressed the 19 people in the audience, telling them that she had learned just prior to the meeting that Tucker planned to sit on the board instead. Rodgers, speaking very loudly and using hand gestures, told the audience the board had already accepted Tucker’s resignation letter and appointed her replacement.
Trustee Herod Hill, a Rodgers supporter who was appointed to the board by the mayor to fill an earlier vacancy, read from a paper purported to be a state statute that he said confirms Tucker’s resignation was legal.
“Here’s where I have a problem,” Rodgers said. “At the last hour, someone shows up at Mrs. Tucker’s house” to change her mind. “I don’t know who it is, but I have to proceed with this meeting.”
Trustee James Madkins piped up, “You got to do it by the law, mayor.”
Here’s the games being played out. Here’s the politics being played out.
Washington Park Mayor Ann Rodgers
Tucker said she made the decision to quit the board because she felt intimidated. She said she was being pulled back and forth from individuals on both sides of the political table in Washington Park. She indicated she was under a lot of pressure and stress and had not had a break in three years. She said she supported everything the mayor wanted her to support. Tucker said with all of the pressure, she thought it was time to take a break.
Rodgers told Tucker she was “not having any fighting at my meeting.” Tucker responded, “I’m not fighting. You’re fighting me.” Tucker accused Rodgers of rushing her resignation through and naming her replacement, all at the same meeting, in an effort to save Coleman’s job.
As the meeting continued, Trustee Deb Moore put her papers back into her yellow envelope and said she was leaving. Rodgers asked her to stay, but she sat with her hands clasped together, in a ready to leave position, saying what was going on was ridiculous and she could not stay
As one point, Thomas was ordered to leave, but he didn’t move. He got up when a police officer approached and escorted him out. Moore, joined by Madkins, and Tucker, also walked out, leaving only Newell, Hill and Henderson, all Rodgers supporters, seated at the table.
“You got to do it by the law mayor,” Madkins said once again.
He was quickly shouted down by Rodgers, who began to beat her gavel on the table.
“Here’s the games being played out. Here’s the politics being played out,” Rodgers shouted.
After the three trustees left, a vote was held on the residency ordinance, which passed 3-0.
Thomas said he does not believe the vote is legal because Henderson’s 30-day appointment had already expired.
Tucker, looking obviously frustrated and upset, told Rodgers she didn’t know what had happened in the past. But she said the law was clear — her resignation letter had to be notarized in order for it to be valid.
Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503