Despite legal warning, Island Lake board strips mayor’s power

Despite repeated warnings from the village’s attorney about the legality of the proposal, the Island Lake village board stripped the mayor of the ability to retain or fire the town’s police chief.

The changes to the village code — approved by a 4-2 vote — give those powers to the board.

But attorney Stewart Diamond insisted trustees don’t have the legal right to take those powers from the mayor and give them to themselves. Under state law, only a mayor or a police and fire commission can hire or fire police chiefs and other key employees, he said.

“This ordinance is unlawful,” Diamond said. “One of the clear powers that a mayor has ... is to choose the officers of a municipality.”

The ordinance presented “takes the mayor entirely out of the equation,” Diamond said.

“If it does pass this evening, it will not go into effect,” Diamond said before the vote.

Trustees Laurie Rabattini, Don Saville, John Ponio and Donna O’Malley voted to take away the mayor’s powers regarding the police chief’s position. Trustees Connie Mascillino and Don Verciglio opposed the move.

Rabattini said she’s read the law regarding the retention of police chiefs and believes the state doesn’t require trustees to give mayors that power. Diamond agreed but said only the mayor or a police commission has such power. A village board doesn’t, he said.

Mayor Debbie Herrmann — who’s been the target of several such power grabs by trustees in recent weeks — didn’t comment during the discussion that preceded the vote.

Earlier this week, Herrmann said she planned to sue O’Malley, Rabattini, Ponio and Saville over their efforts to erode her powers.

The lawsuit was expected to be filed today in Lake County circuit court by Diamond’s law firm, which itself has been targeted by the four trustees. Shortly after the police chief vote Thursday night, they voted to restrict Herrmann’s access to Ancel, Glink, Diamond, Bush, DiCianni & Krafthefer and hire a different lawyer as a consultant.

Again, Diamond said the hiring and firing of a law firm is the mayor’s responsibility and not up to the board.

As with the first vote, the move to change legal firms passed 4-2.