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Second District Upholds Ordinance Creating Office of Executive Assistant with Identical Duties to Office of City Clerk

Oct 22, 2021

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The Plaintiff, city clerk for the City of Dekalb, filed a complaint (both individually and in her official capacity) challenging the constitutionality of an ordinance that created the office of executive assistant and provided for the person holding the office to be appointed by the city manager. The ordinance provided further that the newly created office of the executive assistant would have identical duties to those of the city clerk.  

The Plaintiff alleged that the ordinance violated section 6(f) of Article VII of the Illinois Constitution because the ordinance altered the City’s form of government without first submitting the question to a referendum. According to Plaintiff, the ordinance “effectively emasculates” the office of city clerk by transferring all the city clerk’s powers, duties, and functions to the office of the executive assistant. The City of Dekalb countered that the ordinance neither eliminated the office of city clerk nor transferred the clerk’s duties, powers, or functions. The City argued that it was within its home rule and statutory authority to provide that an appointed officer—the executive assistant—shall perform the same duties as the city clerk.  

The Court agreed with the City of Dekalb and found that the ordinance neither changed the manner of selection of the position of city clerk nor the clerk’s term of office. The Court noted that the plain language of the ordinance: (1) retained the office of the city clerk; (2) provided for a non-exclusive list of the city clerk’s duties; and (3) did not transfer the city clerk’s duties to the executive assistant. The Court also agreed with the City of Dekalb that it had the authority to create the office of executive assistant pursuant to section 3.1-30-5(a) of the Municipal Code.  

Next, the Court addressed Plaintiff’s contention that the creation of the office of executive assistant was not necessary. Again, the Court found this argument unpersuasive and indicated that the City of Dekalb’s determination that the new position was necessary was entitled great weight. Finally, the Court analyzed whether the ordinance violated the Plaintiff’s right to suffrage. The Court held that this argument was without merit because the ordinance did not eliminate the office of the city clerk.

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