Power shift in Island Lake could give critics more voting strength
Now that Island Lake Trustee Donna O'Malley seemingly has joined the trustees opposing Mayor Debbie Herrmann, the critics have gone from being the minority on the board to the majority.
One critic, Trustee Laurie Rabattini, could take advantage of the power shift during the board's meeting Thursday.
Rabattini has requested discussion of three proposals involving issues she and her allies have complained about publicly but have been virtually powerless to act on.
One, is a resolution to limit unplanned billable hours by the village's law firm, Ancel, Glink, Diamond, Bush, DiCianni and Krafthefer.
Another, would create internal disciplinary procedures for all village employees.
A third proposal would create a resolution formally allowing any trustee to place items on a board meeting agenda without mayoral approval.
When asked about the timing, Rabattini said "they are important changes that need to be implemented now."
"I hope I have the support of the full board," she said in an e-mail.
Herrmann said all three proposals violate state or local statues and dismissed the moves as political retaliation.
"I think they're just trying to create a showboat," she said.
Since the 2009 village election, Rabattini, John Ponio and Don Saville have represented an opposition block against Herrmann, O'Malley and trustees Don Verciglio and Connie Mascillino.
When ties needed to be broken, Herrmann consistently voted with her allies and against the others.
But O'Malley has voted with the critics on some key issues in recent weeks, most significantly to eliminate the mayor's power to unilaterally fire employees.
Reached via e-mail Wednesday, O'Malley said her voting pattern has changed because "it has taken me awhile to acclimate to being a village trustee."
"I've realized it is a whole board that runs this village, not just a choice few," she added.
The proposal concerning Ancel Glink would create rules for how and when the firm can work for the village. It would require attorneys provide written estimates for unplanned billable hours, limit the time the firm can spend on public requests for documents and require board approval before some legal work is done.
It's needed, Rabattini said, because the town's legal bills are "out of control."
The Daily Herald has formally requested copies of the firm's bills to the village, but those statements have not yet been delivered. The village legally has until Monday, Feb. 28, to respond.
Ancel Glink has been involved in several lawsuits against the village, an investigation into a former police chief, the criminal cases against ex-Mayor Tom Hyde and his wife, village employee Sharon Hyde and other matters.
Rabattini's second proposal would, if approved, create a progressive disciplinary procedure for employees designed to "correct subpar employee performance," according to the document.
It would ensure any employees who are terminated are treated fairly and that proper documentation exists before someone is fired.
Last year, Rabattini and other trustees objected when Herrmann unilaterally demoted then-Police Chief Anthony Sciarrone and fired police officer Fred Manetti without prior board notification or discussion.
At the Feb. 18 board meeting, the board voted to end Herrmann's ability to take action against employees on her own.
The third proposal would allow any trustee to ask the village clerk to place items on board-meeting agendas.
To add an item to an agenda for discussion now, a trustee must make a request to the village clerk that is then approved by the mayor, Herrmann confirmed. To vote on an item, it must be proposed by two trustees or the mayor, Herrmann said.
Saville supported Rabattini's proposals, saying they would return democracy "and common sense" to the boardroom.
Mascillino had concerns about the three measures, particularly that they weren't drafted by the village's legal team and aren't in the official format for resolutions. For example, the documents don't have places for Clerk Pam Miller to record votes or a spot for Herrmann to sign them.
Herrmann questioned the legality and necessity of the proposals, too.
She particularly targeted the resolution about limiting the lawyer's billing hours, calling it "absolutely insane." She also blamed Rabattini for filing multiple Freedom of Information Act requests that required legal guidance.
Two meetings are scheduled for Thursday night. These three items are on both agendas.
The first meeting is a regularly scheduled committee-of-the-whole session set for 7:30 p.m. The second is a special voting meeting scheduled to start immediately after the first meeting.