Prospect Hts. clerk, treasurer candidates say roles still relevant
Months after rejecting an attempt to eliminate Prospect Heights' clerk and treasurer as elected officers, voters on April 7 will settle contested races for the two positions.
In November, more than 60 percent of voters opposed measures that would have made the clerk and treasurer positions filled by mayoral appointment instead of popular vote.
Now, both incumbents in those positions are running for another term, facing competitors who say they were asked to run by Mayor Nick Helmer -- a proponent of the plan to eliminate the elected positions.
"Those positions are essentially nonexistent at this point," Helmer said at election time. "The idea was that less government would be better."
But both Clerk Stacey Adamson and Treasurer Rich Tibbits and their opponents, Wendy Morgan and Kay Michaely, respectively, said the roles are still important.
Tibbits, who has been treasurer since 2003, said he wasn't happy with how the city council handled the referendum about his job.
"I think the mayor is dead wrong," Tibbits said. "He was very presumptuous in some of the things he said about that."
Tibbits said he didn't know the city council was going to discuss the referendum until he saw it on the council's public agenda, adding that he was "blindsided" by the issue.
He thinks the role of an elected city treasurer is important to prevent situations like what happened in Dixon, Illinois, where an appointed comptroller and treasurer embezzled more than $50 million from the city over 22 years.
"It puts too much power in the hands of too few people, and the voters agreed," he said.
Tibbits said has done more than just what is expected in his treasurer role, including getting involved in the debate on city water and making sure city council meetings are recorded and posted to the local cable channel.
His opponent, Michaely, said if elected she would focus just on the role of treasurer, and admitted she would have a lot to learn.
"I'm going to ask a lot of questions," Michaely said. "A newcomer also has new eyes and a new point of view."
While the responsibilities of treasurer and clerk somewhat overlap with that of the city finance director and deputy clerk, staff positions that handle the day-to-day work, Adamson said there's reason to keep the elected offices in place
"It's an extra layer of oversight," she said.
Her challenger, Morgan, an attorney and Mount Prospect Prospect Heights Rotary president, said she wants to make the position more active than ceremonial.
"Yes, we have a deputy clerk. The function of the clerk is not to do nothing and dump it all on the deputy clerk," Morgan said. "I think that the city clerk's position was meant to be one that is active and participatory." If elected, Morgan said she would hope to improve communications between the city and the residents, improve the city website and be more visible at city events.
"I love my community and the people in Prospect Heights," she said. "They want someone to take this position who can express an opinion, who can help them, who can be accessible, accountable and have a presence in the city."