A meeting this week that attempted to ratify actions taken at last month’s trustees meeting ended with more confusion and questions about whether either meeting was legal.
The meeting Monday night started with Mayor Ann Rodgers calling the roll and determining there was a quorum that included a newly appointed trustee. Village Clerk Rickie Thomas said it was his job to call the roll, and that the new trustee, Toni Whitaker, was not legally seated because she had not been voted on by the full board.
The confusion began at a meeting Jan. 24 when three trustees passed a residency ordinance. This happened after two elected trustees and the clerk left the meeting, the clerk by police escort. Former trustee Carlene Tucker, who was supposed to be at the meeting to be named civil defense director, surprised the mayor and told her she was there to reclaim her seat. She had a copy of the Illinois Municipal Code that showed that her resignation was not valid because it was not notarized. Rodgers told her she had moved on.
At the same meeting, Thomas, in calling the roll, refused to recognize Marcus Henderson, who Rodgers named in December to a 30-day appointment. Thomas said the actions taken at the January meeting were illegal because Rodgers relied on the vote of an improperly seated trustee to push the residency ordinance through. He also said he believes the law is on Tucker’s side and that she should have been the trustee of record, not Henderson.
The residency requirement passed once again at Monday’s meeting with trustees Whitaker, Shawn Newell and Herod Hill voting in favor of it. Trustees James Madkins and Clyde “Stonewall” Jackson abstained. Tucker was a no-show, and the previously appointed trustee, Henderson, who voted in favor of the ordinance the last time, was sitting in the audience. He said he learned Friday that he had been replaced by Whitaker. Trustee Deb Moore was absent.
Thomas said Rodgers swore Whitaker in with only the office manager and bookkeeper present, something he said was illegal, just like Henderson’s appointment. The full board did not vote on either appointment, as required by law, he said.
“We could avoid all of these unnecessary meetings if she would follow the law. We’ve got a highly paid consultant (Ray Coleman) who over the four-year period he’s been here has earned about $240,000 and we’ve accomplished nothing.”
Coleman in past interviews has said repeatedly he earns his money and has done much good work for the village of Washington Park.
We could avoid all of these unnecessary meetings if she would follow the law. We’ve got a highly paid consultant (Ray Coleman) who over the four-year period he’s been here has earned about $240,000 and we’ve accomplished nothing.
Village Clerk Rickie Thomas
Thomas said Rodgers put notes in trustees’ boxes informing them about Whitaker’s appointment, but he said, “She didn’t give me a copy. She tries to usurp my authority and my office. She wants to run it. She tries to ignore that my office exists by not giving me documents I should have.”
Rodgers and Thomas, who are on opposite sides politically, are opposing each other in April’s mayoral election.
Rodgers recently was kicked off the ballot by a municipal election board — one of two that were operating in the village. A hearing is scheduled for Friday morning in St. Clair County Circuit Court to determine whether she will be on the ballot or have to run as a write-in candidate.
Reached by phone after the meeting, Tucker said she didn’t come Monday night because, “They’re just going to do the same thing.” She said she filed an injunction and was waiting for a decision on whether she is still a trustee. The phone line abruptly dropped off and Tucker did not answer again when a reporter called back.
Tucker, who was chair of the village’s Personnel Committee, led the charge to fire Coleman, saying he has too much power and the village cannot afford him. She believes this is why Rodgers does not want her on the board.
After the meeting. Thomas said he has filed for a review by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office over the actions that were taken at the Dec. 20 and Jan. 24 meetings, and will be adding the proceedings that took place at Monday night’s meeting in his complaint.
Rodgers said she took it upon herself to call the roll because she had important matters that had to be dealt with and she knew Thomas was not going to recognize everyone seated on the board. She said that, in her opinion, the meeting was legal.
Madkins and Jackson sided with Thomas, saying the previous meetings were illegal. Madkins said Rodgers simply refuses to follow the law and he has a problem with that. Jackson said Rodgers is wrong and wants the attorney general to make her do the right thing.
Trustees Newell and Hill, who support the mayor, say she has done good things for Washington Park.
In other matters, the board approved an agenda item seeking documents from Associated Bank and Regions Bank to determine who got and cashed TIF checks. Two individuals attended a previous meeting claiming they did not receive TIF money they were promised.
Hill, who is chairman of the Finance Committee, recommended that TIF be suspended in Washington Park until a thorough investigation has been done to determine what has happened and what is happening with the program.
He said so far he has seen two checks that were cashed. He did not elaborate further on who cashed or signed them. He said he is still investigating.
Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503