Sycamore City Clerk referendum could be on November ballot

Appointed or elected? Sycamore City Council to vote Monday whether to ask residents about future of clerk’s office

Sycamore Mayor Steve Braser, sitting next to Sycamore City Clerk Mary Kalk and 3rd Ward Alderman Jeff Fischer, talks during the March 4, 2024, Sycamore City Council meeting. During that meeting, officials discussed the notion of removing the city clerk position from future ballots, and filling the job through appointment.

SYCAMORE – Voters could be asked in November to decide if the Sycamore City Clerk’s Office should remain an elected position, as the Sycamore City Council is expected to decide Monday whether to place a referendum on the ballot, according to city documents.

The idea of a referendum on whether or not Sycamore City Clerk should be an appointed position was first broached during a March 4 Sycamore City Council meeting, when Sycamore Mayor Steve Braser said he believes the Northern Illinois Mayors Association would be 100% behind the city making the clerk job an appointed position.

Sycamore City Clerk Mary Kalk, who was first elected to the office in 2017, declined to comment on specifics of the proposed change to her full-time elected job during the March 4 meeting. At the time, she said the decision isn’t about her, rather the future of the office she holds.

Sycamore City Manager Michael Hall said Kalk’s job performance has not prompted the change. Instead, he said that if the clerk job were to move away from an elected position, it would be the job of the city manager to recommend appointing someone to fill the role. Final approval for hiring and firing would then be required by a majority of the City Council, however.

Second Ward Alderman Chuck Stowe said he likes the separation of the clerk’s office from other city officials, but was torn because he said he’s seen other city’s have issues with the job.

In neighboring DeKalb, controversy surrounding former City Clerk Lynn Fazekas came to a head in 2019 when the DeKalb City Council took up a vote on whether to make the elected clerk – part-time in DeKalb – an appointed one.

DeKalb residents have twice before voted in referenda to leave the position an elected one. The DeKalb City Council voted in August 2019 to keep the clerk elected. The controversy continued, however, with former DeKalb City Clerk Sasha Cohen who was censured by the DeKalb City Council from his duties in 2023 after catching flak from city of DeKalb leaders, who said he repeatedly flouted his responsibilities and did not show up to work. The DeKalb Clerk’s role was vacated via a judicial ruling by Circuit Court Chief Judge Bradley Waller on March 28, and no one has been appointed to fill the position as of Sunday.

DeKalb’s part-time elected city clerk makes $8,000 annually. Sycamore’s City Clerk, a full-time position, has a budgeted salary of $65,050, according to Sycamore’s city documents. Sycamore also pays a budgeted salary of $56,646 for a deputy clerk, a full-time appointed position.

If the Sycamore City Council approved posing the question of the clerk’s office – elected or appointed? – as a referendum, it could appear on Sycamore voters’ ballots as early as the Nov. 5 election. A decision on the referendum is expected Monday at the Council meeting at 6 p.m. in the Sycamore City Center, 308 W. State St., downtown.

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