Wauconda trustees halt meeting as Mayor Bart speaks, threaten 'no confidence'
Two years of political acrimony in Wauconda culminated in mutiny Tuesday when Trustee Linda Starkey grabbed a microphone while Mayor Frank Bart was talking and -- with the help of the other trustees -- ended the village board meeting.
As a shocked Bart briefly protested, Starkey called for a vote to adjourn the night's three-hour session. Starkey and the other five trustees agreed and walked out, leaving Bart to continue speaking to the few audience members remaining in the room at Wauconda High School.
Starkey's revolt came minutes after all six village trustees said they'll support a vote of no-confidence targeting Bart at the next board meeting.
Bart has been at odds with the board and the community since narrowly winning election in 2013. The last straw for the panel came Monday night when Bart participated in a telephone conference call about a local plan to outsource Wauconda's dispatch center without telling the trustees about it.
The conference call was organized by a conservative political group called the Illinois Opportunity Project and onetime state House candidate Danielle Rowe, a Bart political supporter from the Wauconda area.
While Bart has been the strongest proponent of outsourcing at village hall, the trustees have supported keeping the center open. All have said they want more information before making a decision.
No trustee participated in the teleconference. Several said they didn't learn about it until they were contacted by residents.
Near the end of Tuesday's village board meeting, Trustee Lincoln Knight noted the teleconference and called it a "huge disappointment." Knight then called for a vote of no-confidence to be taken at the Aug. 3 board meeting.
"I think it's time," he said.
Like a censure, a no-confidence vote has no legal or political power other than to embarrass the target.
Every trustee backed the move.
Trustee John Barbini called Bart's participation in the teleconference "ill advised" and said it has caused more political divisiveness in the community.
Starkey referred to the roughly 30-minute conference call as a "political dog and pony show" that didn't belong in Wauconda.
In response, Bart said he would wear the vote of no-confidence as a badge of honor.
In a Wednesday interview with the Daily Herald, Bart said he didn't intend to disrespect the trustees by participating in the teleconference without first telling them about it.
"I traditionally do not inform the trustees of public talks that I participate in, but given the response to the call I can understand why they were surprised," he said. "I would still participate in a forum to communicate with constituents on key issues affecting the village, but I need to do a better job of communicating with my colleagues before these types of events to avoid surprises of this nature."
Bart remained dismissive of the threatened no-confidence vote, calling it "a political slap on the hand by the trustees."
He said he was elected to lead change in Wauconda, and he has accomplished that by reducing spending and creating a financial surplus.
"A vote of no-confidence is not usually done when you have record-breaking successes," Bart said. "Change is difficult, and it causes tension among us, but this administration has had the courage to continue to propose new changes for the benefit of our taxpayers."
Bart and the trustees have feuded over a plan to bring Lake Michigan drinking water to the village, his choice of Patrick Yost as police chief, comments he's made and other issues. They've seemingly patched things up after each scuffle, but within weeks or months each time, they've found themselves at odds over different matters.
"It is one thing after another," Trustee Tim Howe said. "It is a steady drumbeat."
The trustees lashed out at Bart late Tuesday during a section of the meeting reserved for trustee comments. It was the last item on the night's agenda.
When Bart tried to respond, Starkey grabbed a different microphone and called for adjournment.