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DeKalb city manager proposes removing city clerk position from ballot

DeKALB – The DeKalb City Council on Monday will discuss a proposal to make the city clerk an appointed rather than elected position.

It has been a tumultuous few weeks since Mayor Jerry Smith, following the council’s direction, asked City Clerk Lynn Fazekas to resign – a request she refused.

The elected, part-time position will be the subject of discussion and two votes at Monday’s meeting, set for 6 p.m. at the DeKalb Municipal Building, 200 S. Fourth St.

According to city documents, one proposed ordinance would clarify that a deputy clerk – in this case Ruth Scott, who is also executive assistant to the city manager – can perform all duties of the city clerk. The second would end popular elections for clerk and give the mayor, with consent of the council, the power to appoint the clerk.

Fazekas would remain as city clerk until her term expires in 2020.

Voters have twice rejected proposals to make the clerk an appointed position, most recently in November 2012. After the referendum failed, the city in turn expanded the appointed deputy clerk to full-time with benefits, and the elected city clerk role was made part-time.City Manager Bill Nicklas said the conversation isn’t necessarily an ethical one.“I don’t think it’s a question of whether it’s ethical or not,” Nicklas said. “Is it legal? And is it something in the best interest of the residents and businesses of DeKalb? We’re not changing the constitutional office, and that’s the difference between what we’re doing and what was proposed in the referenda. We’re reassigning duties to make sure they’re fulfilled.”

DeKalb’s city code states that in the clerk’s absence, the deputy clerk can perform the same clerical duties “as if done by the city clerk personally.” Nicklas said the ordinance proposed on Monday’s agenda will solidify that intent.

In city documents, Nicklas argues that DeKalb’s council-manager form of government embraced that “the increasing economic role and legal complexities of government required more professionally trained officers.”

Nicklas said that for the past five years, the primary duties of the clerk’s office have been performed by Scott, not the clerk, and that Scott is capable of performing the duties alone because she is already a full-time city employee.

“Given the importance of the duties, do we want to hold the person who performs them to a professional standard, or do we want to trust in their popularity at the polls?” Nicklas wrote.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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