Residents will likely see a referendum within the year on the question of elected officials holding two offices simultaneously. Whether this question is on the November or the April ballot has yet to be decided.
A legal opinion and an announcement from Mayor Pete DiCianni both preceded Monday night's Finance, Council Affairs and Administrative Services Committee discussion of dual elected duty.
It's been a contentious issue for DiCianni, who is running for a position on the DuPage County Board in District 2. Prior to Monday, he has maintained that he would continue to serve as mayor if elected to the County Board in November.
However, an hour before the Finance Committee meeting, DiCianni said he would if elected.
This came a few days after the city received a on the matter from Jack Siegel, noted municipal legal expert. Siegel said that Elmhurst, as a home rule community, can pass an ordinance preventing a council member from serving more than one elected position, but not before residents vote on the issue via referendum.
Siegel was at the committee meeting Monday to deliver his opinion in person. Seventh Ward Alderman Mark Mulliner, who proposed council action on dual duty last month, prefaced Siegel's remarks by reminding residents that “this issue is not about Pete DiCianni. I've said all along ... this is an issue about what is right and wrong for the city of Elmhurst.”
Siegel reiterated the need for referendum. He delivered his findings with a brief lesson on home rule. He referenced case law and legal opinion that, in some cases, he participated in.
“Whenever you change the nature of a municipal office ... this needs to be done by referendum,” he said.
He cautioned that the Illinois General Assembly still has the power to undo a municipality's actions with a 3/5 majority of both houses of the assembly along with a clear statement on what was being limited. Siegel cited a case in Evanston—one he lost—where the legislature intervened to curtail city powers.
The committee agreed to go forward with a referendum. As of now committee members are split on when the question should appear on the ballot. Mulliner urged the committee to push for November, as the presidential election would likely bring more voters to the polls.
But 5th Ward Alderman Scott Levin wondered if April would be better, as that is traditionally the time for municipal elections. He also did not want to appear to be reacting to DiCianni's County Board candidacy.
City staff will research the timeline for putting the question on both ballots and work with city legal counsel to begin drafting referendum language.
In thanking Siegel for his opinion, Mulliner referred to him as “the dean of city attorneys.”
“Fortunately, I've spent my life doing this,” Siegel said.