The Cahokia Village Board has thrown out a long-standing residency requirement, meaning employees no longer have to live in Cahokia to work for the village.
Mayor Curtis McCall Jr., with a majority vote on the board, said this was done to get a more diverse pool of applicants. “To help move the village forward in a positive manner and to hopefully attract new residents, you have to open things up,” McCall said.
Jerry Nichols, the lone dissenting vote on the board, said McCall just lifted the requirement so he could hire more political patrons, including Francella Jackson, who lives in O’Fallon.
“He wants to pay her $67,00 a year to be his executive assistant. The village can’t afford that kind of money. I don’t know where they are getting the money to pay the five people they just hired. They are paying them $29.50 to $31 an hour. Plus they are getting benefits. The only money coming in anywhere now is tax money. They don’t let me see a lot of things,” Nichols said.
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McCall said Jackson, who was hired two weeks ago, has a wealth of experience and she is worth the money she will be paid. McCall said he is working to make Cahokia the same kind of family oriented place it was when he was growing up. He denies that Nichols is not being allowed access to the same documents as the other board members. He said change is fueling the dissension on the board.
“Some people resist change whether it is good or not. Some people just have a hard time accepting that things will be run different. I feel good about what I am doing. I want us to unite as one,” McCall said.
Jackson, who was the director of Community Outreach for the East St. Louis Police Department, had no comment on her new job. McCall said a starting date for Jackson has not yet been set.
“It’s a mess here. Everything he said he was going to do in the first 100 days, he hasn’t done any of it. The food pantry is closed. The senior citizen building is closed,” Nichols said.
McCall said he is looking for a new building to house the food pantry. He denies that he ordered the old pantry closed. The letter he provided to a reporter ordered the previous manager, Christina Walker, to vacate the premises.
McCall said he planned soon to name a person to run the pantry. He said he took the action because he had received numerous complaints about the way Walker treated patrons, something Walker has repeatedly denied.