Discussions about changing the village clerk from an elected position to a staff job have begun in Mundelein.
Mayor Kenneth H. Kessler brought the proposal forward at a village board meeting Monday night. The idea isn't a reflection of the abilities of the current clerk, Esmie Dahlstrom, Kessler insisted during a subsequent interview.
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Rather, it's an effort to improve the efficiency of the job, Kessler said, and to get the right candidate in the office.
"There's no problem with the current clerk," he said.
Dahlstrom could not be reached for comment.
The village clerk has been a part-time job in Mundelein since 2005. A divided village board voted to change the job's hours and responsibilities the previous year, prompting the resignation of then-Clerk Pamela Keeney.
When she quit, Keeney was earning $43,000 a year as clerk. Her replacement, Dahlstrom, was paid $6,905 her first year, the same as the trustees.
Dahlstrom won election in 2005 and was re-elected in 2009. Her current term ends in spring 2013.
Dahlstrom and the six trustees now earn $8,640 annually. The mayor earns $21,600 annually.
Village clerks typically take notes at board meetings, respond to Freedom of Information requests, handle some financial transactions and oversee small staffs, among other responsibilities. Training to do the job properly often is required of elected clerks who may not have prior experience doing that type of work.
That was a concern for Kessler. So is the clerk's salary.
"It's a high level of responsibility for $8,000 (a year)," he said.
Trustee Ray Semple agreed.
"It's basically a full-time job," said Semple, who voted against making the clerk's post a part-time gig in 2004. "It's a very time-consuming job."
Making the clerk a staff job requires voters to approve the change through a referendum. Island Lake residents will face just such a question Nov. 6.
The deadline to put a referendum on the November ballot has passed. As such, the clerk will continue to be an elected job in 2013.
A referendum to change the clerk's status starting with the 2017 election could be put on a ballot as soon as next spring.
"It's out there," Semple said. "A future village board will have to take that up if they so desire."
Kessler proposed two other changes Monday night: freezing trustees' salaries and reducing the salary of the mayor to equal what trustees earn annually.
Mundelein's mayor is paid too much, Kessler said, because the village administrator really handles the day-to-day operations of the town.
As for the trustees salaries, Kessler feels the board members shouldn't automatically receive annual raises, which they do now under statute, because village employees' salaries have been frozen in recent years.
Kessler also feels trustees' salaries are greater than they should be.
Neither concept had a lot of support on the board, he said.
The board took no formal action on any of the three proposals Monday.