An ordinance providing for the recall of public officials in Dolton is at the center of a lawsuit dividing village trustees against the mayor and clerk.
Tiffany Henyard, Stanley H. Brown and Robert G. Hunt Jr., who were each elected to four-year terms as Dolton village trustees in April 2013, filed a complaint in Cook County Circuit Court on Sept. 24 seeking an injunction against the village of Dolton, naming Dolton Mayor Riley H. Rogers and Village Clerk Mary Kay Dugan as co-defendants in the case.
The root cause is the village’s Ordinance 15-022, which was adopted June 1 on a 4-3 vote. Henyard, Brown and Hunt, who identify themselves as “political adversaries of the mayor,” voted against the ordinance, which amends the village code to provide for recall of elected officials, and applies retroactively to those elected in April 2013. But the ordinance does not apply to those elected in April 2015, including three trustees for whom Rogers campaigned. Under the ordinance, recall propositions required a petition signed by a number of voters equal to at least 25 percent of the total votes cast in the most recent mayoral election.
Unless the recall petition specifies otherwise, the recall vote is set for the next regular election. If the recall vote is successful, the post is declared vacant until the mayor names a replacement, subject to trustee approval.
Henyard, Brown and Hunt argue the ordinance represents an illegal use of the village’s home rule power, which dates to 1981. The plaintiffs allege neither the Illinois Election Code nor the Illinois Municipal Code authorize the recall of elected municipal officers. The complaint cites Article VII, Section 6(f) of the 1970 Illinois State Constitution regarding its limit on home rule powers, reading it to infer the recall provision could only be legal if enacted by public referendum as opposed to a trustee vote.
The plaintiffs further say the recall ordinance is an illegal limit on the right to vote. Using a trustee vote to enact a policy that should have gone to public referendum, they argue, retroactively gives some votes cast in April 2013 greater or lesser weight than other votes.
They also allege the ordinance violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause because the recall ordinance exempts trustees elected in 2015, who the plaintiffs said should be considered “similarly situated” to officials elected in 2013.
In a report published in The Chicago Citizen in June 2015, Hunt described the ordinance as a “power grab” on the part of the mayor, who he compared to a “third world dictator who intend to run everything at the expense of the people.” Hunt noted the mayor had also purportedly appointed himself the village’s police chief.
“He’s pushing for complete dominance and control in this community and he’ll stop at nothing to achieve it,” Hunt said in the article.
In the complaint, the plaintiffs asked the court to declare the recall ordinance unconstitutional and invalid, seek a preliminary and then permanent injunction prohibiting enforcement of the ordinance and keeping the clerk from accepting and certifying recall petitions or submitting them to the election authority. They also request reimbursement for legal fees.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys are Christopher L. Petrarca and William F. Gleason, of Hauser Izzo, Oak Brook.