News - Joliet and Will County

Joliet council turns down Wooten appointment

Todd Wooten appeared before the Joliet City Council on Tuesday before the council voted 4-3 against his appointment to fill the seat vacated when Councilman Don Dickinson resigned.

The Joliet City Council turned down the appointment of Todd Wooten to the council in a 4-3 vote on Tuesday as the opposition pointed to an outside legal opinion and questioned the mayor’s authority to make the appointment.

The next member of the council could tilt a majority that that has on key issues opposed Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, who had appointed Wooten to replace Don Dickinson.

Dickinson, who resigned a week ago, had been part of a 5-3 majority that is down to four. In case of ties, the mayor casts the deciding vote.

O'Dekirk called the developments Tuesday "bizarre" and said he will continue to bring appointments to the council for votes with the next one coming at a budget meeting planned for Monday.

"I can read, and the ordinance says the mayor makes the appointment," O'Dekirk said.

O'Dekirk referred to a city ordinance and several council appointments in past years, including that of Councilwoman Bettye Gavin, who were appointed by himself and two preceding mayors with council approval.

Gavin voted against Wooten along with Pat Mudron, Michael Turk and Sherri Reardon.

Voting for Wooten were Larry Hug, Jan Quillman and Terry Morris.

Mudron produced a legal opinion, which he said he received an hour before the council meeting, from the Chicago firm of Klein, Thorpe and Jenkins. The opinion cited state statutes while stating that nominees for council appointments should come from the council, contradicting a city ordinance and a practice in place for decades in Joliet.

"I can ask for an opinion anytime I want to," Mudron said after being questioned by the mayor as to why he went outside the city legal department for advice on the appointment.

Before Mudron produced the opinion, he and Reardon had questioned Wooten about an email he sent earlier this year stating that the fire and police board had lost confidence in Police Chief Al Roechner.

"There are certain things that the chief has done that has shown poor leadership," Wooten said.

But, he added, "As a councilman, the fate of the chief would not be in my hands. It's in the city manager's hands."

Reardon suggested that the city leave the council seat open until it is filled in the next election, suggesting the Klein, Thorpe and Jenkins opinion gives support for the delay.

City Attorney Sabrina Spano, however, said both state statute and city ordinance require filling a vacant council seat in 60 days.

“The seat does have to be filled at this point,” Spano said.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News