Island Lake officials continue bickering

By John P. Kelly
Updated 3/25/2011 5:32 PM

Bickering among public officials in Island Lake continues as Thursday's village board meeting ended with Mayor Debbie Herrmann cursing a trustee as she stormed from the board room.

Four rival trustees then held what the village attorney called an illegal closed-door meeting to discuss strategy for a lawsuit Herrmann filed against them.


It was the latest installment of Island Lake's political drama -- complete with brash exchanges, a round of mayoral vetoes and disagreement over whether the evening's votes were even valid.

For weeks, a coalition of four trustees has maneuvered to chip away at Herrmann's power. The coalition has tried to replace the village's law firm -- partially prompting Herrmann to sue them -- and eliminate her authority to unilaterally suspend and fire village employees, a measure Herrmann vetoed.

A proposal Thursday to override that veto was among a series of agenda items meant to further erode Herrmann's authority.

But after disagreement on whether votes cast at the meeting could withstand legal scrutiny -- the session was technically a nonvoting committee meeting -- trustees tabled more than half of the agenda items.

The board did vote, 4-2, to eliminate sections of an ordinance that define the mayor's role as supervisor of village administrators and spell out her power to delegate tasks and inspect departmental records. The only sentence left intact specifies mayoral duties as those required by law.

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Herrmann described the whittled-down language as having no impact on her authority and promised to "continue doing what I do."

Despite the shortened agenda, the meeting lasted more than two hours as trustees John Ponio, Don Saville, Laurie Rabattini and Donna O'Malley took turns criticizing the mayor and proposing various changes to how business and meetings are conducted.

Rabattini said she had tabulated $672,000 in avoidable village expenses this year related to legal fees, settlements and police department retirements. She then claimed the mayor and other department heads had been collecting $50 monthly reimbursements for personal cell phone use without providing receipts.

"For the record, your facts are not correct," Herrmann responded, saying she had not once been reimbursed for personal cell phone use.

Ponio later demanded to know why Herrmann had hired a part-time police officer without seeking board approval.

After the meeting ended, Saville and Herrmann had a heated exchange which ended with the mayor swearing at him and repeating, "I'm not afraid of you" as she left the room.


David McArdle, an attorney hired by the four aligned trustees, met in closed session with his clients after the meeting concluded. Stewart Diamond, who has continued to serve as village attorney, called the gathering a violation of the state's Open Meetings Act because it excluded other trustees and the mayor.

Saville defended the private meeting, saying it was held to discuss Herrmann's lawsuit against them. Allowing trustees Connie Mascillino or Don Verciglio, or Herrmann herself, to attend would mean divulging sensitive "legal tactics," he said.

On Friday, Diamond said the lawsuit would be dropped if next month's election shifted the balance of power on the board in Herrmann's favor.