WOODMERE — Village Council voted to override Mayor Ben Holbert’s vetoes on two ordinances and a resolution in a meeting that lasted 5 minutes this past Saturday morning. Councilwoman Alberta Fanning was not present, but otherwise council’s vote was unanimous and there was no discussion.
On May 13, Mayor Holbert used his first veto since taking office in January of 2018 to block two ordinances and a resolution that council passed at the May 8 council meeting. One ordinance allowed the mayor to accept donations to the village from $250 to $1,000, but required him to submit a report to council detailing how the donation would be used and what fund it would be placed into.
The other ordinance stated that the council president or the clerk can call a special council meeting at the request of four or more council members. Under this law, the mayor is not permitted to call a special meeting. There was also a resolution that Mayor Holbert vetoed, which would adopt a council handbook.
In his veto notices, Mayor Holbert wrote that he was concerned about how each of these issues were approved as emergency issues, meaning that council suspended the three required readings and passed them after one reading. He also said that Treasurer Tom Cornhoff was never consulted about the ordinance regarding monetary donations, and Law Director Frank Consolo did not review the council handbook, which was written by Council President Jennifer Mitchell Earley.
“I don’t think the public had a chance to weigh in and that’s my concern,” Mayor Holbert said. “They never got the chance to know it was on the table. We’re a government entity so what is there to hide?”
Even though a public notice was posted outside Village Hall prior to the special meeting, Mayor Holbert said that residents likely would not see it and should be aware of the meeting. On May 17 at 5 p.m., the mayor sent out an automated recording of the public notice about the special meeting the next day (a Saturday) using a phone notification system to every village resident. Three residents, including former Councilman Gerald Carrier, former Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman David Corney and Belmont Road resident William Malik, shared their concerns with council in an angry exchange following the meeting this past Saturday.
Mr. Carrier said that he has not come to a council meeting since his term as a councilman ended eight years ago, but said that he is concerned with how this legislation “did not have its proper debate.
“I don’t know if there was discussion about any of this,” he said. “How did they come to a point to approve this? That’s my concern.”
Mr. Carrier also noted that Mr. Cornhoff is retiring in two weeks, and suggested that council should call a special meeting to find a new treasurer rather than calling a meeting to override the mayor’s veto.
Mr. Malik, a 30-year resident of the village, said that too much of the legislation is approved as emergencies without three readings. He also said that the public notices for meetings should give more detail and explanation for what will be discussed, rather than just naming a particular section of the codified ordinances that will be amended.
“They have to run the meetings right,” he said. “This kind of stuff has got to stop.”
Mr. Corney said that he would like to receive notice of public meetings further in advance, rather than receiving a call less than 24 hours before council meets.
In an email exchange with council and the mayor prior to the May 8 meeting, Mr. Consolo advised council not to put these two ordinances, another ordinance about the village logo and the resolution on the agenda. He said in the email that he was not aware of a public meeting to “create, discuss and deliberate these ordinances.” According to Mr. Consolo, the agenda for the April 29 council work session did not state that council would consider and present legislation related to a council handbook, donations, the calling of special meetings or a village logo.
Various items were listed under the “proposed legislation” section of Ms. Earley’s agenda for the April 29 meeting, including legislation about calling special meetings and adopting a village logo and council handbook. The ordinance on donations came from the “budgetary controls” section of the agenda, but was not explicitly listed on the agenda. Ms. Earley said that the legislation was not crafted at the time of the meeting.
Mr. Consolo said in the email that this legislation could be considered the product of an illegal meeting.
Mayor Holbert said that he expected council to ask him to elaborate on his objections to the ordinances and resolution and thought there would be a discussion among council members.
Councilman Tennyson Adams was unclear on the results of the override. He voted to override the mayor’s veto on both ordinances and the resolution and allow the legislation to go into effect immediately. But, he later explained his vote by saying that council needs to take more time to discuss these items, and was not aware that they were passed and went into effect immediately.
Following the meeting, Councilwoman Glenda Todd-Miller asked Mayor Holbert to call a special meeting to discuss village programs and projects, administrative and legislative relations and appointing a village treasurer, which the mayor submitted to the council clerk last Saturday. He later canceled his request since the new ordinance does not give him authority to call a special meeting.