Chicago Ridge Board rescinds ordinance limiting mayoral powers

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

What a difference an election makes.

Just 13 months after the Chicago Ridge Village Board passed an ordinance giving them the power to reject mayoral appointments, a reconstituted board rescinded the ordinance at its meeting on July 11.

The original ordinance strengthened the “advice and consent” powers of trustees, giving them the right to reject any mayoral appointment. If a majority voted against an appointment, the mayor would have 30 days to convince them otherwise. If unsuccessful, the mayor would have to choose another candidate.

But Mayor Chuck Tokar was so strongly against it that he filed suit last year against the five trustees who approved it, saying he wanted a judge to determine whether the ordinance violated the state constitution regarding mayoral powers. Well, in April, around the time that Tokar won re-election and three new trustees were elected to the board, a judge ruled against his position. But that is all moot now.

The vote on July 11 was 4-2 to rescind the ordinance, with the no votes cast by Trustee Fran Coglianese, who pushed for it last year, and newly elected Lisel Kwartnik.

“I’m very happy. It means we are not going to waste taxpayer dollars to appeal it, which could have lasted another year,” said Tokar this week. “I didn’t want to appeal, but every attorney I talked to said the judge was wrong.”

“It’s sad that so much money was spent on this, and the mayor has stated that he would abide by whatever the judge’s decision was,” said Coglianese, who ran unsuccessfully against Tokar for mayor in April.

“It’s a loss to the board. I hope they will never be in the same position we were last year, but if so, we will be back where we started,” she added.

Tokar contends that the ordinance isn’t necessary, because the trustees “hold the purse strings” and can get rid of an unwanted appointee by simply reducing the salary to an unacceptable level.

“They have to vote on everyone’s salary. All they have to do is lower the salary and then just raise it again,” said the mayor.

Coglianese disagreed, pointing out that efforts to lower the mayor’s salary last year were unsuccessful.

The issue originated last year when a majority of the board voted against the appointment of Burt Odelson as village attorney. But he stayed on until the end of Tokar’s term, and the board approved his appointment officially after the election, with only Coglianese voting against it.

“This year, the board was consulted on everything and I think all the appointments went well,” said Tokar. “They were all approved. I’m pretty happy with how things are going now.”

In a somewhat related matter at the July 11 meeting, the board also approved the appointment of Chris Fernandez to the Police and Fire Commission. He replaces Dan Higgins, a longtime commissioner who is stepping down.

“Chris is a detective with the Worth Police Department so he is a perfect fit,” said Tokar.