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Chicago Ridge mayor vetoes ordinance over his right to make appointments

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar waited until the end of a rather quiet village board meeting on Tuesday to announce that he was vetoing an ordinance passed at the June 7 meeting that would limit his power to make appointments.

“I am using my veto because this ordinance is illegal and unconstitutional,” said Tokar, overturning the 5-1 vote cast by the board at the last meeting. The controversial ordinance (see related story on front page) requires that the mayor’s appointments be approved by a majority of the six trustees. These include offices such as village attorney, police and fire chief, and department heads.

“I want to know if we have the authority to overturn this veto,” Trustee Bruce Quintos said.

“Well, that would be a question for your legislative counsel,” said Tokar.

Quintos said he would consult the board’s legislative counsel, Kevin Camden before holding a vote to overturn the veto at the next Village Board meeting on July 12. That office was created this year to advise trustees, after Tokar kept Burt Odelson as village attorney after four trustees voted against his appointment in January.

“You took away our powers of advice and consent, and we’re just taking them back,” Quintos told the mayor.

‘I take issue with that. I don’t think anything was taken away from anyone,” said Trustee Jack Lind, the only trustee to vote against the new ordinance. “No one could give a reason for not retaining the attorney. It was fully legal,” he said.

“If they do overturn the veto, a lawsuit against them will be filed. And the village will have to pay for both attorneys,” said Odelson afterward. He said he is “caught in the middle” of a political battle between the mayor and trustees.

Odelson said he agrees with attorney John B. Murphey, who advised Tokar in May that a lawsuit would be successful because the Illinois Constitution requires a referendum to be held before ordinances limiting mayoral powers are enacted in home-rule communities such as Chicago Ridge. The new ordinance limits to 60 days the length of time any mayoral appointee may remain without the approval of the village board. Currently, temporary appointments are open-ended.

“Between Murphey and myself, we have represented more than 50 municipalities, while the trustees’ legislative counsel has never represented any,” he noted.

Trustee Fran Coglianese said the advice and consent issue is worth a court fight. “Our attorney is much less expensive than theirs,” she said.

Earlier in the otherwise friendly meeting, the board voted unanimously to honor the late police Officer Steven Smith by renaming Birmingham Street where he lived, between Oak and Oxford Avenue, “Steven Smith Drive.”

Smith, a Richards High School graduate and Marine veteran of the Iraq War, was 27 when he was killed by a wrong-way driver on Interstate 294 last September.

Quintos said a dedication ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday morning, July 6.

“Our hearts go out to you. He will never be forgotten in this town,” Tokar told his mother, Lisa.

“I can’t thank you enough,” she told the mayor and board. “You have done so much to keep his memory alive. I consider you family, like those guys up there,” she said, pointing to the police officers lined up at the back of the room.