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Evanston City Council members have revised City Code, adopting a rule that it will take seven votes to remove a City Manager from office, despite criticism that a simple majority is the standard elsewhere.
At the June 22 City Council meeting, aldermen voted to revise the City Code to reflect their Council rules – a looser compendium of directives that relate to Council conduct of various issues – that a supermajority vote of seven votes is needed to remove the manager from office.
The action comes as the City has re-launched a search for a chief executive to replace Wally Bobkiewicz, who left Evanston to become City Administrator in Issaquah, Wash., last year.
Illinois Municipal Code states that a manager may at any time be removed from office by a majority vote of the Council or Board. The Evanston City Code reflected that view, holding that a majority vote of the nine member Council and mayor was necessary, before the June 22 change.
As a home-rule community, the Council could make that change, which is believed to have occurred sometime during Mr. Bobkiewicz’s nearly ten-year tenure as City Manager. A Law Department representative, however, was unable to pinpoint when the change was made when asked the question at the March 2 City Council Rules Committee meeting.
Speaking during citizen comment at the June 22 City Council meeting, John Quintana, a longtime Sixth Ward resident, argued against the move.
“By changing the ordinance we will differ from the municipal code, which provides specific accountability to the residents of the City, through the majority vote of our alderman,” Mr. Quintana said.
“I’ve not heard a single argument as to how change in the ordinance benefits the citizens of Evanston. If anything, it dilutes the accountability for providing city services,” Mr. Quintana said.
Mr. Quintana said he understood that under Evanston’s home-rule status, conformity with the State was not necessarily a requirement. He argued that, at the least, Council members could send the issue back to their Rules Committee, asking the City’s legal counsel the applicability of home rule on the issue.
On the Council floor, however, aldermen approved the change to seven votes needed 7-2.
Voting in favor of a supermajority were Aldermen Judy Fiske, 1st Ward; Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward; Melissa Wynn, 3rd Ward; Donald Wilson, 4th Ward; Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward; Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward; and Ann Rainey, 8thWard.
Voting against were Aldermen Thomas Suffredin, 6th,Ward, and Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward.