LAKEMOOR – Lakemoor residents won’t get to elect their village clerk after all.
Village attorney Jeremy Shaw reversed course last week, saying that to make the village clerk an elected position, passing a referendum is needed.
He previously had advised that because the village had passed a population threshold of 5,000 residents, the position became an elected one. It was one of a handful of changes the village had to make because of its growth.
Lakemoor had planned on having its residents vote for their village clerk at the regularly scheduled municipal election in April. Nominating petitions to get on the ballot had been available at village hall.
Village Clerk Bonnie Sikora didn’t know how many residents had begun collecting signatures for the petition because the forms for village president, trustees and clerk are all the same. Letters were sent out to potential candidates to let them know about the change, she said.
“The best I can do at this point is apologize to those who actually took steps to obtain signatures,” Shaw said. “Again, it’s not an easy decision to make, and if you’re going to blame anybody, you can certainly blame me.”
Shaw is confident this conclusion is the right one, and even if it ends up being wrong, it’s the one with the “least damaging consequences,” he said.
Trustee Kimberly Beach was upset by the decision and the fact it came too late to put a question of whether to elect the village clerk on the ballot.
“I feel like that’s terrible,” she said. “That’s really terrible.”
Shaw has been working on this question for about six months, trying to reconcile state election laws and local municipal code. Even the two county clerks – Lakemoor straddles Lake and McHenry counties – didn’t agree on which way to go, he said.
Ultimately, he was advised by another McHenry County town that had faced the same issue, he said. He didn’t want to name which town, but officials there pointed him to a section of state statute they used to reach their conclusion.
Under Illinois statute, villages with fewer than 5,000 residents can pick whether to appoint or elect their clerk. In 1994, the Lakemoor Village Board decided to appoint.
Now, Lakemoor has crossed the 5,000-resident threshold, but because the clerk was appointed under the other threshold, the question on whether to elect has to be put to the voters through a referendum.
“If the Legislature intended the clerk to be elected once the population threshold was crossed, there should have been mandatory language in this section stating that ‘upon attaining 5,000 residents the clerk shall be an elected position,’” Shaw said.
This is just another growing pain for the community, he said, and if residents would like to see their village clerk elected, they should reach out to their board.
The board can adopt a resolution that will put the question on the ballot. Residents also can put together a petition to get it on the ballot themselves.