Bartlett President Michael Kelly resigned Wednesday, the day after a board meeting where there was angry division among trustees over his late payment of property taxes, first reported in Sunday's Daily Herald.
The board had voted unanimously to hire a special counsel to explore whether there were any legal obligations the board needed to address related to the late payment.
Kelly, who took office in 2009 after 12 years as Hanover Township supervisor, said in his letter of resignation that, after doing his best to serve the community since moving to Bartlett almost 25 years ago, he was stepping down, effective immediately.
"Last night's board meeting … made clear the best way I can continue to serve our community is to step down. I will neither facilitate nor participate in a distracting and expensive political battle with those members of the board who oppose my term of office.
"Though my sense of justice urges me to vindicate the truth and defend the rule of law, it is clear that a majority of trustees intend to lay the cost of that vindication at the taxpayer's feet," he said.
Kelly acknowledged in Sunday's Daily Herald that for three consecutive years, he has been late in paying property taxes on his home and law office.
Kelly most recently was delinquent on his 2010 taxes, totaling $25,983 from the two Bartlett properties. He said he paid the bill in its entirety Nov. 8, about five hours after the Daily Herald questioned him about it. He would not discuss why he has consistently been behind in paying.
Trustee Greg Martin, who at Tuesday's board meeting brought up the Daily Herald's article about Kelly's late taxes, said he was surprised by Kelly's swift resignation.
"I am actually shocked," Martin said Wednesday afternoon. "But now, I guess we won't know the true story of what went down. I just wanted to get to the bottom of why he was late for paying his taxes."
Martin said that this is the second black eye Kelly has given Bartlett. He pointed to Kelly's employee oversight as former Hanover Township supervisor. Kelly's township welfare chief was sentenced to six years in prison in August after pleading guilty to stealing more than $100,000 in township funds.
Martin said Wednesday the decision to hire counsel was not politically motivated and that he would have asked for a public investigation if any one of the trustees was delinquent with their taxes.
Trustee T.L. Arends, who defended Kelly during Tuesday's meeting, also was surprised. "I think it's a shame," she said. "As a trustee, I wish that this had not happened."
Kelly in his letter thanked Arends, village employees, his family and the people of the village, saying, "you will always be in my heart." The secretary at his law office said he was unavailable for further comment.
Bartlett Village Administrator Valerie Salmons said it's still too early to know who may succeed him. A special board meeting likely will be scheduled to discuss the steps to take in filling the vacancy.
"Our attorney is looking at that," she said. "We'll be putting some information together for the board."
When Martin brought up the article Tuesday night, Arends immediately interrupted Martin.
"I don't think this needs to be brought up at all," she said. "This is a personal matter. I don't think this has any business being brought up at the village board meeting."
But the board went forward with a heated discussion on the topic for about 15 minutes.
Arends' temper flared throughout the discussion, particularly when she complained about what she called the board's disregard for "rules of conduct, rules of etiquette, rules of respect.
"By God. We have no respect for each other," she said angrily. "It is all politics, to me anyway, and I am sorry to see it, I really am. I would hope that after we get an opinion on the question that we asked that maybe we can start a fresh and anew and start respecting each other."
Kelly told Martin that if his "goal was to further humiliate" him that he succeeded, to which Martin, who argued he was "always taught to lead by example," responded, "Mike, you've humiliated yourself!"
But Kelly stood his ground.
"I'm a grown man. I was late with my taxes. I paid them. No deal was cut for me. I paid the penalty. So, what can I say? They were late. I paid," he said.
"To the people in the audience, I'm sorry if this has somehow brought degradation on this board. I'm sorry. I don't think it has. I did nothing immoral, illegal -- even remotely like that," he added. "I paid a bill late."
Toward the end of the discussion Martin reiterated that he still feels the board should set an example for residents.
"Look, I'm reminded all time when I'm driving through the neighborhoods and my wife goes, 'Slow down, 'cause if it gets in the paper, the trustee was speeding.' It's not Greg Martin on that speeding ticket anymore; its Trustee Greg Martin's speeding. And you know what, we do have an image, we have a standard."
"By the way, if it happened to me, then you guys could call me out because there is a standard here," he added.