While the voters decided by a wide margin to dissolve Evanston Township in a referendum held on March 18, a small group of “electors” (i.e., voting residents of the Township) attempted to wrest control of the Township in its waning days.
One leader of the group, Betty Ester, said they are concerned that when the Township’s functions are transferred to the City, the City will diminish the level of services that had been provided by the Township. They say they wanted full access to the Township’s records so they could establish a baseline and then monitor whether the services will continue as promised at the current levels or be diminished in the future.
On Feb. 24, the group filed petitions with the Township Clerk asking that a Special Township meeting be held “to fill the vacancy of the Township Supervisor.” The elected Township Supervisor resigned in October 2013. The Township Code (Sec. 35-35) gives electors the right to fill the vacancy of Township Supervisor at a specially called Township meeting, but only if the office has not been filled for 60 days.
There is a dispute, though, as to whether the vacancy was left unfilled. On Oct. 21, 2013, the Township Trustees approved a motion to appoint City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, in the words of the motion, as the “interim supervisor.”
The petitions contend that appointing Mr. Bobkiewicz as “interim supervisor” was improper. Ms. Ester says the Township Code authorizes the Township Trustees to fill vacancies, but the Code (Sec. 60-5) provides that persons appointed to fill vacancies “shall hold their respective offices for the remainder of the unexpired terms.”
She says the Township Trustees lacked authority to appoint an “interim” supervisor” or an “acting” supervisor, a title used by Mr. Bobkiewicz.
In response to the petitions, Township Clerk Rodney Greene posted notice of a Special Township meeting to be held on March 25 – and there are two different notices, with different agendas floating around.
At the March 25 meeting, the electors present voted to appoint Ms. Ester as Township Supervisor. Ms. Ester told the RoundTable that Township Clerk Greene swore her in as Township Supervisor at that meeting. In a separate conversation, Mr. Greene confirmed that he did so. A tape of the meeting reflects that he did so.
On April 4, Mr. Greene told the RoundTable that he viewed the March 25 meeting as an invalid meeting because there was not a quorum (15 electors) present when the meeting was called to order. He said he regarded everything after that as “unofficial.”
After calling the meeting to order, a tape of the meeting reflects that Mr. Greene said, “I’ll give three or four minutes,” and a discussion ensued about the need for a quorum. Ms. Ester told the RoundTable that a sufficient number of electors to constitute a quorum showed up within a few minutes, and the meeting proceeded.
When asked why he swore in Ms. Ester as Township Supervisor if the meeting was unofficial, Mr. Greene said he regarded the swearing in as unofficial because voters had approved the dissolution of the Township in the referendum and because there was already an Acting Township Supervisor.
Acting Township Supervisor Mr. Bobkiewicz told the RoundTable the day after the March 25 meeting that the election of Ms. Ester “has no meaning and no value.” He said the notice of the meeting did not give notice that a Township Supervisor would be elected, and the electors did not have authority to appoint a Township Supervisor because the vacancy was filled.
At the annual Township meeting on April 8, Mr. Bobkiewicz announced that the Clerk of Cook County had certified that day the results of the vote that approved the dissolution of Evanston Township. “Evanston Township has now been dissolved under the vote,” he said.
Mr. Bobkiewicz also said the Township Trustees and City Council would be asked at their April 28 meetings to adopt a resolution and ordinance, respectively, abolishing Evanston Township effective on May 1. In addition, City Council will be asked to adopt an ordinance in which it will assume all duties and responsibilities of the Township as of May 1.
Since his appointment as interim township supervisor and that of Evonda Thomas-Smith to oversee client services in October, Mr. Bobkiewicz said the number of persons receiving general assistance from the Township has increased and the level of services provided has been enhanced.
One issue raised during the last week is that persons on general assistance may be required to obtain and submit a certificate from the Illinois Department of Employment Security every 30 days, rather than every six months, to be eligible for general assistance.
On April 4, a group of 12 residents of Evanston Township met in the open area outside City Council’s chambers to discuss concerns about the continuation of the Township’s services that will soon be transferred to the City. At that meeting, Ms. Ester said she will continue to pursue legal options.