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Caught in the middle: DeKalb deputy city clerk speaks out in support of appointed clerk role

DeKALB – Deputy City Clerk Ruth Scott said that despite a stressful few weeks because of ongoing conflict between the city manager and city clerk offices, she says that she is “in it for the long haul,” and wants to see the position become an appointed one.

Scott, who works in both offices, said she’s tried to remain professional, but thought about quitting because the tension has affected her ability to do her work, particularly in the clerk’s office, when it comes to getting documents signed and sealed.

“I fully support these two ordinances,” Scott said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I think it’s important for the city clerk role to have consistency. It hasn’t had that in seven years. I’ve been the only consistent factor this office has seen.”

The role has been the topic of debate since earlier this year as city emails obtained by the Daily Chronicle revealed a growing rift between City Manager Bill Nicklas and City Clerk Lynn Fazekas, with Scott in the middle due to her nature as both deputy clerk and executive assistant to the city manager.

The City Council voted, 5-3, Monday in a first-round vote on two ordinances to change the city clerk from an elected to an appointed role. Fazekas has said problems arose because the clerk is limited by the part-time capacity of the job.

In a July 2 email sent by Nicklas to DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith in an attempt to meet with Fazekas, Nicklas expressed concern over losing Scott as a city employee.

“Ruth is carrying [Fazekas] and is ready to quit,” Nicklas said in the email. “We can’t afford to lose such a dedicated and knowledgeable employee at this time.”

Scott addressed ongoing public debate that alleges the office needs a non-city employee to keep the tabs on the city.

“When people say ‘checks and balances, who’s signing what, who’s making sure this is being done?’ I am,” Scott said. “I’ve got my eyes on those documents and know what needs to be there. Nothing is slipping through the cracks.”

Scott said prior to Fazekas’ appointment in August 2018, she kept a city seal in her desk for work when the clerk was not in. Fazekas asked her to hand it over when she came on board.

“Honestly, I was insulted because I had held that seal for over five years through how many clerks without incident,” Scott said. “I don’t want to throw Lynn under the bus, I know Lynn has good intentions. But these things need to be turned around fairly quickly. It’s not even so much about the stamp, it’s about the signatures.”

Scott came to the city in March 2014 as an administrator and deputy city clerk.

Since that time, she’s worked under six city clerks, including Fazekas. Only two were elected, and all, except Fazekas and Jennifer Jeep Johnson, who was appointed in July 2015 and held the role until May 2017, resigned prior to the end of their term.

In her time at city hall, Scott said she’s also worked to organize city recordkeeping, and even created what she calls “Central Records,” where resolutions, ordinances, licenses, intergovernmental agreements, and other documents are stored for easy access by city staff.

“I’ve been pretty much in and out of the deputy city clerk role since that time,” Scott said. “It’s just evolved from there. I’ve honed it, organized it. I love it. I love the work.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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