DeKalb City Clerk returns to blogging; emails show rift still exists between clerk, city manager

Emails show rift still exists between City Manager, Lynn Fazekas

DeKALB – DeKalb's city clerk has returned to blogging after she said attempts to improve conditions inside the office of the clerk ended as a "screaming failure," and emails show a rift remains between her and city staff.

City Clerk Lynn Fazekas, who ran the government watchdog site City Barbs Blog before her appointment by Mayor Jerry Smith to the clerk role in August 2018, has taken up blogging again.

Her formal complaint filed in DeKalb County Circuit Court against the City of DeKalb over changes to the powers of her office which she calls "unconstitutional" was dismissed without prejudice by Judge Bradley Waller on Jan. 8. However, court documents show Fazekas' case is scheduled for a status hearing March 2.

She didn’t confirm whether she’d be bringing an amended case forward, but said it’s not over yet.

“My preference would be to not have to do this at all,” Fazekas said in a phone interview Friday. “The case itself has not been dismissed, the motion’s been dismissed. But we haven’t really gotten to the heart of the matter yet. It’s a shame it has to go this way.”

Since Oct. 14 – when council passed an ordinance that amended the powers of the clerk's office and eliminated the deputy clerk position and assigned those duties to the executive assistant to the city manager (a role held by Ruth Scott), and allowed both the clerk and Scott to use the City Seal – Fazekas said it's gotten "harder to do [her] job."

The role has been the topic of debate since June of 2019 as city emails obtained by the Daily Chronicle revealed a growing rift between City Manager Bill Nicklas and Fazekas, with Scott in the middle because of her nature as both deputy clerk and executive assistant to the city manager. Smith asked her to resign after a closed session meeting
July 22, to which she refused.

Emails show rift still exists

In a Dec. 6 email thread obtained by the Daily Chronicle, Fazekas – who said she’s filing Freedom of Information Act requests for her own records and to double check who’s using the city seal, expressed concern over the release of some closed executive session minutes, which she believed to have been released without council approval.

In the Dec. 6 email, Nicklas asked that they continue the discussion at an executive session called called Fazekas’ actions a “tiring and distracting fabrication.”

"I also thought I would never see, on a local level, the conspiratorial thinking that animates the city clerk," Nicklas said in the email. "As there seems to be no relief from her presence until the spring of 2021,
I trust that we will collectively find ways to hold her to the duties that the council approved on Oct. 14, and also hold her to what is commonly understood as professional decency and discretion."

Fazekas said she felt Nicklas’ email was a threat.

Smith said when he appointed Fazekas to the role, he suggested she stop writing her blog, but did not make it a stipulation.

“At the time I recall saying to her that it would be difficult from my point of view to have her continue writing the blog while she was also the clerk,” Smith said. “I think she’s probably got her reasons given some of the conflict that she sees as her inability to do what she perceives she should be doing at city hall.”

Her latest blog post shows she opposes the planned city hall move to the former First National Bank building downtown, 164 E. Lincoln Highway, a move which unanimously was approved by the City Council in July.

When asked whether she feels blogging is an appropriate course of action as an appointed official, Fazekas said yes.

"I decided if I became clerk,
I would stop blogging because what
I wanted was for people to work with me," she said. "How could people inside city hall trust me if they thought I was going to be writing about them? But as time has done in, it's become apparent that there is not enough good faith for us to work together in any meaningful way."

Smith said he acknowledged the clerk’s position still stands on shaky legs.

“While our relationships with the city clerk has certainly not been as harmonious as I thought it would be,” Smith said, “she continues to be our city clerk. I guess if she feels that she has the time to write on her blog, that’s her prerogative.”