Joliet council takes another crack at council vacancy

Round two comes Monday in what has turned into a fight over a question of how – as well as who – should fill the vacant seat on the Joliet City Council.

Mayor Bob O'Dekirk has nominated Herb Lande, one of his biggest campaign donors, for the job. Lande's name will go to the council at a special meeting Monday for a vote. The council on Tuesday rejected the mayor's first appointment.

Whether Lande, who is chairman of the Joliet Board of Fire and Police Commissioners and owner of Imperial Construction, should get the position is one question.

Whether the mayor should have the sole authority to nominate candidates is another.

O’Dekirk is at least the third consecutive mayor in Joliet who has made appointments to fill vacancies with the council voting on the appointments.

But Councilman Pat Mudron presented an outside legal opinion Tuesday saying Joliet is doing it the wrong way, according to state statutes that regulate city manager form of governments, such as Joliet has.

“I have heard from several other attorneys who say that information is spot on, and [Joliet ordinance and practice] are not correct,” Mudron said Friday. “The council can make the appointment, and it’s not one, two, and that’s it.”

“One, two and that’s it” refers to a provision in state statutes that gives mayors authority to make appointments to fill council vacancies. The council can vote against the appointments but only twice. Then the mayor can name one of the two to fill the vacancy.

The question is whether that provision applies to Joliet.

Illinois municipalities can be formed under different governmental structures, and state statutes regulating them vary depending on the form of government.

The city management form of government gives more authority to the city council than what is known as a strong mayor form of government.

State statutes for city manager forms of government appear to give the full council authority to make nominations, although a Joliet ordinance gives it to the mayor.

Mudron said Friday that he does not know how far he will press the point.

City Attorney Sabrina Spano told the council Tuesday that the city ordinance refers to conflicting state statutes but she needed some time to sort them out.

The mayor has vowed to continue making appointments until someone fills the vacancy created when Don Dickinson resigned Nov. 23.

Whether Lande’s $15,500 in contributions made individually and through his company prove a factor in the appointment is another question.

Councilman Terry Morris said it should not.

Morris said he would support Lande and thinks he would be an independent council member.

“Just because he supported that particular candidate, that doesn’t mean he’s not independent,” Morris said.”