Note to readers: This story has been changed to correctly attribute a quote to Aldermwoman Carolyn Morris.
DeKALB – Members of the public and business community implored the city council Monday to put an end to the months-long debate involving the future of the City Clerk's office, saying it is giving DeKalb a bad rap, though council is one vote closer to passing amended changes to the office that are still dividing the public.
Jerry Krusinki, CEO of Krusinki Construction Company who recently announced their efforts to bring two significant businesses to the city, joined other members of the public during Monday's council meeting who said local media attention was also casting a negative reputation on the city, which could prohibit businesses from wanting to put down roots in DeKalb.
"We're just seeing a lot of negative press, and believe it or not, these companies have better options," Krusinski said."I encourage everybody, the press, the blogging, the chitter-chatter in the community coffee shops to be more positive and get through this negative press. It has the potential of losing both of these transactions and I'd hate to see it."
Council passed the revised ordinance 5-2 on first reading only, with Ward 1 Alderman Carolyn Morris and Ward 5 Alderman Scott McAdams voting no and Ward 3 Alderman Tracy Smith absent. The vote did not pass the second reading since it requires a super majority vote of 6 approvals, so it will go for a final vote the first council meeting in October, though Ward 4 Alderman Patrick Fagan will no longer be serving on the council as he announced his last day in his elected role will be Sept. 26.
The ordinance would eliminate the Deputy Clerk position and the duties would instead be designated to whoever fulfills the role of executive assistant to the city manager, currently Ruth Scott. The clerk would remain a part-time elected role, and would designate the City Seal, used to approve documents, to both the clerk and the executive assistant, who would be allowed to use it in the clerk's absence.
Morris, who was tasked by Mayor Jerry Smith with working as a intermediary between the City Clerk and City Manager's office, said the ordinance up for a vote was the opposite of what she sought out to do. She said after talking with City Clerk Lynn Fazekas, Scott, Smith, and city staff, she proposed the clerk should choose their own deputy.
"I do believe what the majority wants is this issue resolved tonight," Morris said. "So I argue that this issue has been resolved. This is a basic personnel matter that has turned into chasing a mosquito with a hammer. This should have been handled and not come to council."
When asked if she considers Scott her deputy currently, Fazekas said no, and said she is does not approve of the amended ordinance, saying the clerk's office is "annihilated" if the deputy is removed and not under her control.
"I do not have a deputy right now and it bothers me, but the bottom line here is I need somebody I can trust," Fazekas said. "Eliminating deputy clerks instead of allowing the city clerk to choose his or her own deputies is a fatal flaw because we are not just talking about duties and responsibilities. We are talking about the powers of the office."
Some members were in support of the ordinance, like former Ward 5 Alderman Kate Noreiko.
"I am here tonight to advocate for this workable solution to the city clerk crisis," Noreiko said. "And I emphasize the word workable. Not everybody is going to be satisfied. That's one of the lessons I learned on the council, you can't please everybody."
The topic has been an issue of contention at City Hall for more than a month, as a rift between the two offices was made public after City Manager Bill Nicklas and Smith initially said Fazekas was “impeding” city business by keeping the city seal locked up when she wasn’t in her office. Fazekas has said she is limited by the part-time nature of the post, but has since amended her office hours to be there for 10 hours a week, with one hour each on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Cohen Barnes, DeKalb resident and owner of SunDog IT, spoke as president of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation and said business owners are paying attention to how DeKalb is portrayed.
"We desperately need principals of these companies to receive daily Google news alerts about efforts to strengthen our community, with infrastructure, education, training, development, and collaboration, not references to discord," Barnes said. "Please put this matter to bed."