Metro-East News

Washington Park rescinds residency ordinance for elected officials

At the first regularly held village board meeting Tuesday under newly elected Mayor Rickie Thomas, the board voted to rescind a residency ordinance that was passed under the previous administration.

Trustee Ferris Williams, Deb Moore, Mary McKinney, James Madkins, Juliette Gosa and Clyde Jackson unanimously voted to repeal the previous ordinance that was enacted in March under the previous mayor, Ann Rodgers.

Rodgers long contended that Thomas, who was village clerk before being elected mayor in April, did not live in Washington Park. Rodgers said at a village board meeting that she consulted with St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly in January and that he said the village needed to enact a residency requirement.

Kelly has previously said that Rodgers must be mistaken and was conflating unrelated issues.

Thomas disputed Rodgers’ allegation, saying he did live in the village. He was recently criticized in a BND editorial for having two houses — one in Washington Park and one in Shiloh — but taking the owner-occupied property tax exemption on the house in Shiloh.

Rodgers, at a follow-up meeting in January, introduced the ordinance, which passed by a majority vote.

Immediately after that meeting, Thomas was served with a citation for residency violation by then-police chief Tony Tomlinson. In turn, Thomas filed a complaint with the police against Rodgers, claiming she had her daughter attend O’Fallon Township High School — instead of a school in District 189 — until sometime in January.

Rodgers, acknowledged to a reporter that her daughter was living with her father when she attended school in O’Fallon. She and Thomas both have court dates May 31 to answer the charges they filed against each other.

Ray Coleman, the village’s former consultant to Mayor Rodgers, said, “Killing legislation that requires elected officials, including Rickie Thomas ... to live in Washington Park is a miscarriage of justice. By law, they are supposed to live in the municipality where they serve.”

Asked why there was never an ordinance in place before, Coleman said, “It should be covered by the election codes. But, when it comes to fair elections, you cannot get justice in the St. Clair County court system if you are not in lock step with the St. Clair County Democratic Party.”

Asked why he voted to rescind the ordinance, Madkins said he did “what is right for Washington Park.”

In other business:

▪ Thomas made committee appointments and removed some previous individuals from their assignments, including, Henry Newell who was a police commissioner. Kenyatta Moore replaced Newell. Thomas said Moore worked in Washington Park for 6 1/2 years and has 22 years of experience fighting fires. Thomas said he believes the police and fire board should be made up of law enforcement individuals and fire officials. Former Board Trustee Herod Hill was named civil defense director.

“I believe he has shown he has the best interest of the village Washington Park in mind,” Thomas said of Hill.

Five part-time police officers, who Thomas said were illegally hired because they were not brought to the board, were fired by the new board, and four of the five were rehired. They were not identified, but Thomas pointed out that they were identified to the trustees in executive session before being rehired.

In addition to the four officers who were rehired, five more part-time officers were hired.

“The previous administration paid a lot of overtime,” Thomas said. All of the officers are police academy certified, he said.

▪ A local businessman, who runs Romeos, in the 3700 block of St. Clair Avenue, showed up seeking renewal of his business and liquor licenses, even though he only had a receipt showing he had paid $300 of the $1700 he should have paid in 2016. He sought to have the outstanding fees waived. The man said he paid twice that much to the previous administration, but could not find the paperwork.

Coleman said the man had a payment agreement. The agreement was in line with an ordinance that was passed in 2015 by the village board to keep all businesses in compliance. The first business to have problems paying its business license fees was one of the many adult entertainment business establishments in Washington Park, Coleman said.

Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503