LAKEWOOD – A member of Lakewood President Paul Serwatka’s political slate in the April election wants the board to consider censuring Serwatka.
Lakewood Village Trustee Richard Ritchie requested at the end of the Oct. 24 board meeting that an agenda item be added to the village’s next regular meeting, set for Nov. 14 – a board discussion about whether it should censure Serwatka.
A censure is a formal expression of strong disapproval or harsh criticism that in government is adopted by a majority vote as a means of publicly reprimanding a person for an offense and correcting future conduct. Grounds for censure can include embezzlement, absenteeism and drunkenness, among others.
Both Serwatka and Ritchie ran on the Lakewood Tax-Fighter Party slate, headed by Serwatka, that included two other trustees – Amy Fues Odom and Phil Stephan. All four were elected in April to the Village Board.
Ritchie declined to elaborate Friday on why he made the request at the risk of it “being misconstrued by the public.”
“The recordings are on the village website,” Ritchie said. “People can make their own opinion from there.”
Ritchie’s request begins 37 minutes, 44 seconds into the audio recording of the meeting, posted at village.lakewood.il.us.
In the recording of the meeting, Ritchie said, “I am requesting an agenda item to be included in the next scheduled board meeting, slated for Tuesday, Nov. 14, to discuss the censure of village of Lakewood board President Paul Serwatka, due to actions by President Serwatka that this trustee deems to be behavior not becoming of the office and unacceptable as a board president.”
The request was followed by almost 15 seconds of silence in the room, aside from a cough, until Serwatka entertained a motion to adjourn that was approved by trustees.
The meeting ended.
On Friday, Serwatka said he and Ritchie have been in disagreement since just after taking office in May. Serwatka said it started when Ritchie expressed interest in building a new police department and new clubhouse at the village-owned RedTail Golf Club.
“That would cost several million dollars,” Serwatka said. “That’s a direct contradiction of everything we campaigned on.”
Serwatka said Ritchie made a similar request to have the concept discussed and it was denied, and ever since, they have butted heads on certain matters despite passing several ideas the Lakewood Tax-Fighter slate campaigned on.
Serwatka noted that no one else on the board supported Ritchie’s request when it was made, adding that if a majority of the board wanted to talk about it, he would have a hard time stopping the discussion from happening.
Ritchie said Friday that the board can have a discussion about censure of Serwatka and decide whether it’s the right thing to do.
Ritchie said he wasn’t assured the request will be on the Nov. 14 meeting agenda. However, citing Robert’s Rules of Order, Ritchie said Serwatka had a chance to object and did not; therefore, the request should be on the agenda.
Serwatka said the agenda has not yet been set, and the consensus of the board was not exhibited. He didn’t say whether it would be on the agenda.
Ritchie said people can attend the meeting and hear the discussion for themselves, or listen to the audio online afterward.
Censure is nothing new to the Lakewood Village Board.
As recently as July, Serwatka led a successful effort to censure Trustee Jason McMahon, who was appointed in January by former Village President Erin Smith. The censure of McMahon stemmed from Serwatka and the Tax-Fighter slate deeming him to be providing the public with “false misrepresentations.”
Trustees voted, 4-1, to censure McMahon for allegedly making multiple false assertions and incurring about $800 in “inappropriate and abusive” taxpayer-funded legal expenses in an attempt to validate claims brought against Serwatka and other trustees.