Mundelein officials say timing is right for clerk referendum
Mundelein voters will decide in March whether future village clerks will be chosen by election or whether they will be appointed by the mayor.
Unlike 2013 when an identical measure was soundly defeated, village officials believe the 2016 elections could produce a different outcome.
“Actually, this a good time to have a referendum because there are going to be a lot of people voting (in) the primary election," Senior Village Trustee Ray Semple told the Lake County Gazette on Monday.
He added that this was a different type of strategy because “typically you put (referendums such as this) on in an off-year election when not too many people vote” and that turnout is expected to be higher than usual due to the 2016 primaries.
As for the timing of the 2013 vote, Semple stated that the referendum may have caused some confusion among voters “because not only were we voting to make the clerk an appointed position, we were also voting for a clerk; so it was an awkward time, and, probably not a smart time to do it."
The referendum comes to the ballot following an unanimous decision by the village board of trustees to add it in November.
Mike Flynn, assistant village administrator and deputy clerk, told the Lake County Gazette that this was a “more logical time to bring this issue to voters because the term of the current clerk, Katy Timmerman, is coming to an end and she has indicated that she is not going to seek another term."
Another factor considered in the board’s decision to put up the referendum has to do with the way the duties and responsibilities of the clerk have evolved over the past 10 years. Flynn said “the role of the clerk has changed a lot over the years” and “the clerk used to be a full-time position, and actually ran an office that was organized differently and they had different tasks." He pointed out that things such as vehicle stickers were handled through the office, “but we don’t have those anymore."
Flynn said the office was modified to a part-time post in 2005 and, after that, many of the clerk’s tasks were assigned to the finance department or the customer service office.
"Unlike the village trustees who are the elected officials, the clerk operates in an administrative, non-policy making capacity," Flynn said. "The role is more in keeping with the ways administrations function."
As a result of the 2005 modifications, the clerk's role was really returned to the original statutory duties, such as the keeping of the minutes at board meetings, the signing of public documents and the swearing in of police officers.
Semple also referred to the role of advancing technologies with regards to the changes.
“The duties of the clerk have evolved from [a time] where everything used to be done manually; now there is greater automation," he said. "The clerk used to have to type out the minutes, get them posted and go to the library in order to make them available so people could inspect them."
Now, though, Semple pointed out that “you can watch the meetings streaming on the Internet and have the video of the complete meeting to go see what actually happened versus reading the minutes."
Currently, the village clerk is an elected office with the clerk serving terms of four years. The part-time salary is just over $9,000 annually. Semple believes the duties have gotten out of sync with the pay.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into a board meeting, in the preparation of the agenda, getting everything posted, and then the follow-up from the meeting,” he said. “It is more work than the part-time position pays for."
Semple said the village thinks it would be "more efficient and save money to have the clerk’s position absorbed [to that of a ] staff member."
If the referendum passes, the village clerk will be appointed by the mayor beginning in May 2017.