Lakewood village president to ask board to approve firing of village clerk

Village clerk improperly shredded village documents, gave ‘false testimony’ at electoral board hearing, village president alleges

Lakewood President Phil Stephan will ask the Village Board at its meeting Tuesday to approve the firing of the village clerk and take away her duties fulfilling public records requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

In a letter Feb. 16 to the village board, Stephan said Village Clerk Jan Hansen’s “shredding of village documentation” and “false testimony” at an electoral board hearing “are not consistent with the village of Lakewood’s manner of serving residents and the duty of care owed to village residents.”

“I have no confidence or trust in her ability to carry out her duties,” Stephan wrote.

An attempt to reach Hansen were unsuccessful.

The Lakewood Village Board is set to meet virtually over Zoom at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Written charges against Hansen were posted as part of the village board’s meeting agenda. One of the charges is that at an electoral board hearing Jan. 19, Hansen shredded a receipt documenting that trustee candidates filed nominating petitions and other documentation with her.

Electoral board hearings were held after all candidates, both incumbents and newcomers for the trustee and village president seats open, faced objections to their nomination papers. Of these, two candidates – Will Wayne and Dan Alexander – were removed from the April ballot.

A transcript of the Jan. 19 electoral board hearing shows an attorney asking Hansen what she did with a candidate’s original receipt for filing nomination papers. At question was whether the candidate had submitted the documents in a way that would have disqualified them but realizing the issue, refiled them.

According to the transcript, Hansen said she shredded it, so it didn’t get mixed up with a second receipt.

The written charges state the shredding of this document violates the Local Records Act, specifically the part that says all public records made or received by an officer or agency “shall not be mutilated, destroyed, transferred, removed or otherwise damaged or disposed of” except as provided by law.

“The village clerk consistently provided incorrect information to candidates for village office and incorrectly completed documentation in connection with her receiving candidate petitions,” Stephan wrote.

Stephan also accused Hansen of providing inaccurate testimony at the electoral board hearing when asked about the fastening of a candidate’s petitions.

Hansen said the candidate did not have a stapler with her when she first came to Village Hall, but the candidate said she did. Another witness who was called also said the candidate had a stapler.

According to transcripts of the electoral board hearing, Hansen told the candidate she did not need to staple her nominating petitions. State election law requires that paperwork to be “neatly fastened together in book form.”

The electoral board determined that the village clerk provided the wrong information, which was relied upon by the trustee candidate.

Also alleged in the written charges is “poor, negligent and unsatisfactory performance” of assigned work when it comes to matters related to fulfilling Freedom of Information Act requests, as well as in Hansen’s performance of other administrative duties.

Lakewood Trustee Ryan Berman, referencing the shredded document, asked trustees to consider removing Hansen as village clerk at the last Village Board meeting.

“I believe that her actions and her admissions under oath create significant risk for the village,” Berman said. He then asked if Hansen had shredded election documents.

“It was an in-house receipt,” Hansen said. “It was not an election document.”

In a straw poll, all trustees present except Trustee Amy Odom voted to fire Hansen.

“I think this is a ridiculous time and place to be making this kind of a political grandstanding,” Odom said. “You have set [Hansen] up for failure, and now you’re throwing her under the bus publicly.”

Tensions between Hansen and other village officials have not always been so high.

A document obtained by the Northwest Herald shows that former Lakewood President Paul Serwatka previously commended Hansen for her work during a transitional period and asked the village board in 2018 to approve an off-cycle bonus of $5,000 for her.

“Although she is a part-time employee of the village, she made herself available to President Serwatka as needed including after hours and on weekends,” the document stated. “Clerk Hansen is a valuable asset to the Village of Lakewood and proved herself more so when she stepped up to assist the village at a time when the village needed administrative leadership.”

Cassie Buchman

I cover Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Cary, Fox River Grove, Prairie Grove and Oakwood Hills for the Northwest Herald.