Metro-East News

ESL mayor: Council expected to fire new city manager

The recently hired city manager is expected to be fired Thursday at a special City Council meeting, according to Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks.

At her final town hall meeting Tuesday night at the Mary E. Brown Center, Jackson-Hicks told the crowd that members of the City Council are planning to fire Traycee Chapman and install a new city manager.

“I made the commitment to be your mayor because I wanted to effect some change in East St. Louis. I am very serious about making positive changes. Thursday, I assume they are going to replace the current city manager we have. It’s already out there,” she said.

The agenda for the meeting has only one item on it. It says: “Legislation pertaining to contract agreements/obligations for current and new city manager.” It implies a new city manager will be hired at the meeting after an executive session and prior to adjournment.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. in City Hall.

Jackson-Hicks also talked about the dire financial situation the city is in, what has to happen to bring economic development to East St. Louis, public safety, public works, neighborhood involvement and the city’s Regulatory Affairs Department. But, it was clear that she was troubled by a rift that has been building up between her and the council.

She said that the firing is fueled by the changes that have been made at City Hall, which included the firing for the previous city manager, Deletra Hudson, and the regulatory affairs manager, Robert Betts.

“There are those who don’t want change in East St. Louis,” the mayor said.

The four council members could not be reached for comment.

Chapman has been working in East St. Louis for about 30 days. She left a job in Colorado to take the city manager position. Chapman’s mother grew up in East st. Louis.

Jackson-Hicks said she brought in a team of people who are more than qualified to help change the city’s negative image and to restore it to the time when it boasted a large population, had job opportunities for the people who live there and was a community where people were happy to live and raise families.

Jackson-Hicks said the changes that have been made are necessary to turn things around in East st. Louis. But some of the recent firings and layoffs by Chapman have fired up some of the politicians, she said.

Jackson-Hicks said the city is faced with a $5.7 million deficit and it’s due in part to mismanagement by the prior administration. The News-Democrat recently reported on a special audit that was commissioned by Hudson and former Mayor Alvin Parks that was critical of some of the city’s financial practices.

Jackson-Hicks said gaming revenue, which is essentially the money that pays for public safety in the city, is down from $11 million to $6 million. She said city officials in the prior administration had reached an agreement to get a $2.5 million loan from the Financial Advisory Authority, the entity that was overseeing the city’s spending until last year. But, the money was never given to the city. That didn’t stop city officials from spending it, though, the mayor said.

Jackson-Hicks also talked about how a grant paid for additional firefighters, but when it ran out, those firemen have continued to work at the city’s expense, which the city cannot afford. And, the union contracts that the police department entered into with the city when there was a larger population are too expensive for the city to keep up with, she said.

She also said that worker’s comp costs and legal fees for lawsuits against the city from employees and outsiders have hit the city hard to the tune of $1.9.

Jackson-Hicks encouraged the crowd to be at the council meeting Thursday. She told them, “What happens in this city is up to our citizens. You make the decisions. You decide how you want things to go. Come out Thursday, whether you are for or against this. We want your voice to be heard. Change does not come without struggle.”

Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.