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Evanston City Council members are sticking with a supermajority of votes needed for removal of the next City Manager – superseding the number needed under State municipal code as well as that followed by some surrounding communities.

At the Oct. 7 meeting of City Council’s Rules Committee, aldermen stood behind a provision already in place under their rules, requiring a supermajority, or seven votes, for removal of the City Manager, who essentially acts as Evanston’s Chief Executive Officer.

The Illinois Municipal Code provides that a manager may at any time be removed from office “by a majority vote of the members of the Council,” staff noted in their research.

A check of codes of surrounding communities – Glenview, Northbrook and Arlington Heights – shows a majority of votes is required for removal.

At the Oct. 7 meeting, Ald. Donald Wilson, 4th Ward, spoke in support of keeping seven votes in place.

“I feel more comfortable with this being a supermajority requirement,” he said. “What I don’t want is for any employee of the City – whether it’s the City Manager or anybody else – to feel undue pressure on what I’ll call a political basis or political grounds.”

Ald. Wilson argued that “having it kind of close” [with only a majority needed] could put the City Manager “in a more precarious position,” having to cater for votes all the time, and not telling aldermen “the hard things they need to hear” at times.

Mayor Stephen Hagerty also spoke to the greater security, noting that seven is consistent with the number needed for approval of a new City Manager.

“I think it is really important for us to put out there that, if you get the job, you’ve got the supermajority of the Council to do this job,” he said. “And if you lose your job you’ve got a supermajority of people that don’t think you’re doing a good job or sufficient job.”

He reminded Council members that hiring a City Manager is one of the most important decisions they’ll make – “who is going to be your CEO of the City, so to speak.”

He noted that on some decisions the Council makes, a supermajority is required, such as the development of the Library Parking lot, which required seven votes.

“I think the practice is appropriate, given the importance of the position,” he said.

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, said she felt “five is plenty.

“I understand wanting the person to feel like they have the support of supermajority,” she said. “But I also feel like the person should do a good job. And so therefore I think if the majority of us don’t feel the person is great, that should be enough.

My concern is if we have six people or five people who, you know, we don’t love, it’s harder to make a change,” she said.

As for the political pressure cited by Ald. Wilson, “I think any position that is going to be reporting to an elected body is under political pressure, whether five or seven people are involved,” she said.

“I think that’s just the nature of the job they’re signing up for in City government.”

Alderman Thomas Suffredin, 6th Ward, noted that the City Manager, whoever that person is, also has contractual protection, so if removed from a job, that person would still get paid. “So five seems like plenty to me,” he said.

Committee members voted in favor of adhering to the existing rules, requiring a supermajority, with Aldermen Suffredin and Fleming voting against the measure.

Bob Seidenberg

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.