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Local News

Someone's stepping on toes, but who?

Interim City Manager Steve Jones had some things to say in his letter giving notice to the mayor and City Council that he is leaving Aug. 7.
Interim City Manager Steve Jones had some things to say in his letter giving notice to the mayor and City Council that he is leaving Aug. 7.

Interim City Manager Steve Jones' resignation letter covers a number of topics including the form of government under which Joliet is supposed to operate.

This is a confusing point for many.

One of the members of Eric Lurry's family pointed at Mayor Bob O'Dekirk during the Tuesday council meeting, saying it was up to him to make changes in the police department.

"You're the boss, Mr. Mayor," Minerva Snead said.

"Well ma'am, I'm not," the mayor replied.

O'Dekirk is right. But some people think he was trying to be the boss when Marty Shanahan was interim city manager, and that that was the origin of the mayor-council conflict that persists to this day,

Jones' letter alludes to this without saying it directly.

Jones wrote that when he was hired "the Council's expectations were to restore professionalism to the Office of the City Manager in order to better serve the interests of the community. Since that time the City has operated, as intended, under the tenants of the Council-Manager form of government."

Jones later says he hopes "my replacement will maintain the necessary guardrails that are in place under the Council-Manager form of government."

Under this form of government, the city manager is the boss of daily operations and city departments. The mayor has one vote among nine on the city council, although all of them together have the power to fire and hire the city manager.

While some may think the mayor was trying to be the boss, O'Dekirk contends that it was a council majority that interfered and removed Shanahan when he tried to assert his authority as interim city manager

"After what happened to Marty Shanahan," O'Dekirk said when asked about the next interim city manager, "this has to be some person that knows they're not going to be fired if they step on someone's toes."

Shanahan, O'Dekirk said, "was doing things that needed to be done."

He points to Shanahan's attempt to make changes in the police command structure. He pointed it out to the Lurry family at the council meeting, shedding blame on the council majority that removed Shanahan.

Councilman Pat Mudron thinks Shanahan was trying to get done what the mayor wanted to get done.

"I don't think the conversation we had about police – that Marty had anything to do with that," he said, "I think the mayor directed all of that."

Getting consensus on a new city manager "is going to be difficult," Mudron said, "because regardless of what he (O'Dekirk) says, he wants it to be a strong mayor form of government rather than a city manager form of government."

This all may get resolved with a reasonable consensus. Some think it will only get resolved in the April 2021 election for three at-large council members.

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