Incoming aldermen criticize lame duck City Council for plan to vote on contentious agenda items before new council is sworn in

A+high-angle+picture+of+the+front+entrance+of+the+Lorraine+H.+Morton+Civic+Center.

Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

The Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. Two incoming alderpeople have raised concerns that Evanston’s lame duck City Council should not be allowed to vote on contentious agenda items.

Delaney Nelson, City Editor

Two incoming alderpeople have raised a complaint alleging the outgoing City Council does not have the power to pass ordinances at its Monday night meeting.

The 81st City Council will be sworn in tonight, but not before the lame duck council votes on some contentious items — including the lease of the Harley Clarke Mansion, the contract for selling water to Skokie and the approval of changes to the city’s Board of Ethics procedures. 

Outgoing Mayor Steve Hagerty said in an April 27 council meeting that the May 10 council meeting would be a “handover” to the next City Council, and that April 27 was the 80th City Council’s last meeting.

Alderpeople-elect Clare Kelly (1st) and Devon Reid (8th) requested in an email that City Manager Erika Storlie and Corporation Counsel Nicholas Cummings change the agenda so the outgoing council’s meeting is solely a “farewell ceremony.” They asked that the new council proceed with the posted agenda after their swearing in.

In a legal opinion sent to Mayor-elect Daniel Biss, City Clerk-elect Stephanie Mendoza and the four incoming alderpeople, election attorney Ed Mullen wrote that the outgoing council would violate state law if it proceeds in voting on the agenda items. Kelly and Reid requested the opinion, Mullen told The Daily.

The Illinois municipal code states that the terms of elected municipal officers “shall commence at the first regular or special meeting of the corporate authorities after receipt of the official election results,” unless the city has an ordinance “fixing the date for inauguration.”

The Cook County Clerk’s Office certified the election results on April 27. In his letter, Mullen wrote that according to state law, newly elected officials are legally required to begin their terms at the first regular meeting, which is scheduled to be Monday, May 10 at 4:30 p.m. 

“What they’re doing in essence is denying the voters’ choice in representation,” Kelly told The Daily.

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th), who was re-elected, told The Patch she was concerned about the amount of business the outgoing council will be conducting.

In a Friday email sent to incoming and outgoing council members, Cummings said incumbent alderpeople’s terms do not end until their successors are, as state law states, “elected and have qualified.”

Mullen said Cummings’ argument advocates for the city to “evade” the language of state law when it makes “a conscious choice not to qualify new City Council members” by not swearing them in at 4:30 p.m.

“The only reason they’re not qualified is the City Council is delaying swearing them in,” Mullen told The Daily. “Frankly, I think it’s a pretty brazen attempt by the current City Council to hold onto power.”

Josh Irvine contributed reporting.

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Twitter: @delaneygnelson

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