Bartlett trustees unanimously passed a motion Tuesday to appoint a special counsel to look into whether there are any legal obligations they must address after the village president admitted to being late in paying his property taxes for three consecutive years.
While covering new business -- including the need to address traffic congestion on Lake Street -- Trustee Greg Martin brought up an article published Sunday in the Daily Herald about village president Michael Kelly's delay in paying his property taxes.
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Trustee T.L. 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.
Trustee Michael Airdo asked if "as an officer of the court" he has any obligations to take action with respect to Jackson vs. Board of Election Commissioners, a recent case that village attorney Bryan Mraz said dealt more with whether a person running for office is eligible for the position if property taxes are owed.
Mraz said he would prefer not to give the board an opinion on the topic.
Arends then made the motion for village administrator Valerie Salmons to appoint a special counsel to look into the questions that have been raised and the trustees unanimously approved it.
She also admitted that she too has been delinquent in paying taxes.
"At this time I would like to admit that there have been three times that I have been late in paying my taxes, for no other reason than I don't have a mortgage company that pays them and I just forgot," she said. "So I cannot say that I am perfect."
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 anyways, 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."
Arends also told Martin he should have told residents who called him about the article to talk to Kelly directly.
"I mean, that is how I would have handled it. I'm not Mike's defender," she said, her voice rising. "I am a defender of the image of this village board, and if any of you are talking to your constituents they will tell you that in the past two years this village board has acted rudely and crudely."
Shipman said he wasn't happy with Arends' response.
"I'm a little surprised that as the 'defender of the image of this village board' you do take any umbrage with the fact that the leader of this board made second page news in the Daily Herald on a Sunday because of a tax issue," he said. "That, T.L., is an image problem. That's my concern."
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."
Shipman agreed with Martin's initial questioning though.
"I think Greg brings up a reasonable question, he wants to know why (Kelly was late in paying his taxes)," he added. "I think Mike gave an answer. I'm not really comfortable with what he gave. I'm glad that we're now going to look for a legal opinion on this."
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.