Village President David Pope and the trustees finally want to appoint a successor to Martha Brock, who resigned effective January. There is one fatal problem with that. The Illinois Municipal Code, the law that sets out the parameters for our village government, prohibits them from doing that. Too much time has passed, and Pope’s inaction has surrendered the power to make such an appointment. Pope, the “process oriented” guy (before substance), the guy of the interminable meetings, finally blew it with his inaction.
Go to the library, and ask one of the helpful reference librarians to look at the Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS).
65ILCS 5/5-2-12 (g) states that a Managerial/Council form of government has only 60 days to fill a vacancy, and uses the language “shall”, which is typically mandatory in Illinois law. In case you think that Oak Park’s home rule powers can override that, think again. Look at sections 5/3.1-10-50 (f) where that is forbidden, and 5/3.1-5-5, where that previous provision for alderman is carried over to other forms of government, unless specifically overridden by statute (and it is not).
David Pope appears to be aware of such restrictions and chooses to ignore them. What’s going to happen? Are the State Police going to break down the door? Well, literally, no. Yet figuratively, yes, and it would be what is called an ultra vires act, “beyond their powers.” Any vote by such a “trustee” would be invalid, and that person’s salary would be invalidly paid, and due back. What responsible person would accept such an appointment if they knew these things in advance? It would show contempt for the statutes, and arrogance.
Elizabeth Brady was appointed under similar circumstances, but presumably (as the responsible person she appears to be), she was not aware of the restrictions. Who is giving these people legal advice, and why aren’t board members familiar with the Municipal Code if they think they are qualified to be trustees?
Why is there such a constraint of 60 days? It is to encourage decisiveness, political courage, and the ability to compromise, by forcing an answer in a reasonable time, asking people to act like grown-ups. The penalty for failure to do so is that no one gets appointed, and the board lives without that trustee position until the next election. The legislature did not want elected officials gaming these situations, and wanted them to get on with the people’s business.
Is there anyone out there who is stupid enough to accept such an appointment at this stage?
Why, you ask, does this matter, when Pope and his VMA allies don’t even need another vote on the board? It is because it would allow them to establish another incumbent, with the electoral advantages of that in the 2009 election. This tactic is precisely the kind of thing that the statutes mean to stop.