Mayor Callero accused Niles trustees of trying to increase their power in village government, and reduce the mayor's power, by passing an ordinance at a special meeting last Wednesday, April 18. He vowed to veto that ordinance, which would allow trustees to hire an independent attorney to represent them, at the regular monthly board meeting Tuesday April 24.
Callero made the remarks at a press conference at his firm's office Friday morning.
The remarks add to the tension between the mayor and some trustees, evidenced by arguments at board meetings in recent months. On Friday, Callero alluded to the fact that trustees are unhappy with his refusal to remove certain village officials from office, but declined to comment further on that.
Opposing View: Trustee accuses mayor of creating carnival atmosphere
Niles' form of government currently permits the mayor to appoint individuals to all non-elected offices, including top staff positions.
Callero criticized trustees for trying to change that by floating a proposal that would allow him to appoint people to key village positions for a period of only 30 days, and not re-appoint any one individual more than once in a year. (Though that proposal was written up, the board did not consider it at the April 18 special meeting for procedural reasons, Callero indicated.)
Callero said he interprets the trustees' proposal as reducing the mayor's power and augmenting the trustees' power.
"They're trying to take power form the executive branch and give it to the legislative branch," he said.
Trustees want their own lawyer
The trustees called for the April 18 special meeting to consider an ordinance that would allow them to retain their own independent attorney.
The ordinance says trustees "find occasions have arisen" when it would have been a conflict of interest for them to consult with or be represented by the village attorney. It creates the option for them to hire an independent attorney and have the village pay his or her legal fees. They passed the ordinance.
Mayor: trustees attempting to usurp power
Callero said it's the function of the village attorney, who is appointed by the mayor, to represent the village board.
"I believe this ordinance is intended to secure legal assistance for trustees in their attempt to usurp the (village) president's statutory authority to appoint and remove officers," he said.
He defined officers as top village staff.
It would take a referendum to make these changes, mayor says
He maintained that the only thing which can strip the mayor of his powers to make and vacate appointments is a referendum which changes Niles' form of government, "not a group of village trustees who are dissatisfied with the (village) president's refusal to remove village officials from office," he said.
He produced Illinois Supreme Court case law, Pechous v. Slawko, 1976, to bolster his position.
"I refuse and I resent the clandestine way the trustees are trying to do something with smoke screens without saying to the public what they are trying to do," Callero said.
He added, "I backed the people in the positions being challenged who have given Niles these services (he had read a list of services the village offers) and low taxes."
Speculates trustees may have violated Open Meetings Act
Callero also said that though many of the trustees advocate open government, he thought they may have violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act in getting together in private to plan for the special village board meeting held Wednesday, April 18. The Act requires that when a quorum of elected officials gathers, even informally, to discuss government business, it must be a meeting open to the public, with sufficient notice given.
"There probably had to be an infraction of the Open Meetings Act if we looked hard enough. The spirit of open government had to be violated," he said. However, he didn't indicate he would pursue that.
Patch will report further as this story develops; coverage of the April 18 special meeting is coming soon.