Tuesday, June 24, 2014 || By Michael Romain
MAYWOOD–Against the recommendations of both Acting Village Manager David Myers and Mayor Edwenna Perkins, the Maywood Board of Trustees voted 4-3 to relocate the mayor’s office from above the police station at 125 S. 5th Avenue to within the municipal building at 40 E. Madison Street.
The vote was taken during a Wednesday, June 18, regular board meeting. Trustees Audrey Jaycox, Toni Dorris, Ron Rivers and Melvin Lightford voted in favor of the proposal; while Mayor Perkins and Trustees Cheryl Ealey-Cross and Michael Rogers voted against it.
An earlier motion, which was associated with additional budgetary costs, had come up for a vote during a May 28, Legal, License and Ordinance Committee (LLOC) meeting, where it failed because it didn’t garner a five-vote supermajority required to amend the FY2014-15 budget. The budget would have had to be amended since there was no money to fund an office relocation when it had originally been authorized.
According to a May 20, memo, Acting Village Manager David Myers had projected that the cost of the office relocation would be $17,000; an estimated $1,500 to $2,000 of which would comprise architectural plans, while an estimated $11,000 to $15,000 would comprise construction costs. The memo states that the Village would utilize the Public Works Department to relocate furniture to an open space on the second floor of the 40 Madison building, “between the Finance Department (Water Department) and the conference room. The space is roughly 30 x 15 feet in size.”
However, at the June 18, meeting, Trustee Toni Dorris, who had helped introduce the relocation proposal and was among the cohort of trustees who voted to direct Myers to look into the prospective costs of a move, denied that the $17,000 figure existed.
Trustee Audrey Jaycox questioned the source of the estimates, asking for the entity responsible for coming up with the quotes. She also said that there was no supporting documentation for the quotes. Myers said that the quotes were created by the Village engineer, but did not address Jaycox’s issue about the lack of supporting documentation.
Dorris said that there is no $17,000 cost added to the transaction and accused individuals who disseminated the estimate as misleading the public, before repeating her line of argument that the relocation would allow the Mayor to work better with the Village Manager.
Trustee Jaycox reinforced Dorris’s position by adding that the move, which she said had been in the works even during former Mayor Yarbrough’s administration, would only reestablish a common tradition of the Mayor’s office being located within the municipal building. She said that this tradition is followed by most local governments, including Maywood, until it was disrupted by former Mayor Ralph Conner, Mayor Yarbrough’s predecessor.
“People were disenchanted with the fact that Ralph Conner had moved [the Mayor’s office] over [to 125 S. 5th Avenue] and that he was doing it for his own personal benefit and not the benefit of the village,” Jaycox said. (Continued below ad)
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Up until that point, only one of the two main parties who would be most affected by the relocation had voiced her opinion on the proposal. Mayor Perkins had been against the move since it was first proposed. But at the June 18, meeting, in a break with protocol, Meyers offered his unsolicited personal opinion of the proposal.
“This form of government is a manager’s form of government and by you bringing the mayor into the manager’s office, it kinds of gets convoluted there. It would be a tight spot in that office,” Myers said, after the Board voted.
Although he referenced the physical complications of working in such close proximity with the Mayor, it’s telling that Myers felt compelled also to mention the symbolic significance of such a move.
In a Village that many would consider plagued by the undue politicizing of the most basic managerial functions and procedures, and with a Board that’s been widely criticized for its incessant micromanaging (even to the point of Trustees frequently and openly directing that critique at each other), perhaps it would be unwise to merge the political with the practical spheres of influence even closer than they already are.
Contrary to Trustee Dorris’s and Jaycox’s notions, Myers seemed to suggest that the relocation may, in fact, lead to a deterioration in the working relationship between his office and the Mayor’s–not an improvement.
This intense focus on the location and efficiency of the Mayor’s office originated in the much broader context of the FY2014-15 budget. At the time, several trustees were dissatisfied with several aspects of the budget process itself, which included the lack of comprehensive information (such as detailed job descriptions) on which to base whether or not to authorize the budget, the short time-frame in which the decision to authorize was made, and what seemed to the trustees to be the pervasive problems of Village departments that are understaffed.
At an April 29, regular board meeting, the Board unanimously voted to authorize the FY2014-15 budget, despite these perceived defects in the budget process, in order to meet the May 1st authorization deadline–with the understanding that the budget could be changed by amendment. In the aftermath of approving the budget, the Board agreed to engage in a comprehensive discussion of ways in which the problems that it had addressed in the run-up to authorizing the FY2014-15 budget could be resolved.
Instead, however, most of the budget-related discussion that the Board has had after April 29, has been about the Mayor’s office. This fiscal year, the Village of Maywood projected to budget a grand total of $42,990,107. The Presidents & Trustees line item, which is where the money to operate the Mayor’s office comes from, was budgeted $263,917.
In effect, no more than 0.6 percent of the Village’s nearly $43,000,0000 budget was addressed during what was supposed to be a comprehensive discussion about ways of improving both the budget and the process by which it is produced.
“This issue [of relocating the Mayor’s office] isn’t so critical for us to have spent so much time on it,” said Trustee Cheryl Ealey-Cross.
“We have all kinds of issues here that have been ignored [and] put on hold because we’re dealing with some trivial stuff […] This is not a priority. The priority is hiring [a] manager, making the town safe, staying out of debt, [etc.].”
Regardless, the Board’s vote is binding and since the budget can’t be changed to pay for the move that the Board had originally directed David Myers to plan, Mr. Myers must now focus on carrying out a task that, judging by his words, neither he nor the Mayor are too enthused about.
Instead of preparing a room in an open space on the second floor of the municipal building between the finance department and the conference room at an estimated cost of $17,000, Myers will now have to find an alternative route to relocating the Mayor that doesn’t cost more money than he already has in his manager’s budget.
The likeliest route, which was discussed at the June 18, meeting, is to move the Mayor into a room next to his own office (while the Mayor’s and Board’s Executive Assistant will be moved into a room in front of the relocated office).
According to attorney Michael Jurusik, the move must be paid for within the manager’s current budget and with current Village staffing, which means that Myer’s wouldn’t be able to retain any outside contractors, such as a moving company or architects to refurbish the room to its new purpose. The details and possible implications of the new directive have not yet been discussed in public. VFP