EAST PEORIA — Never mind.
The East Peoria City Council on Friday rescinded a vote it took two weeks ago and dropped placing a referendum question on the November ballot that could have changed the city's form of government.
A 3-2 vote at the council meeting on Aug. 7 to place the question on the ballot flipped to a 3-2 on Friday to keep it off the ballot after Mayor Dave Mingus called the special meeting and then reversed his vote.
"My feelings haven't changed that there is a need to look at changing the city's form of government," Mingus said after Friday's vote reversal. "What did change was finding out how many unanswered questions there would be if voters did away with the commission form."
The city had not yet submitted the referendum question to Tazewell County authorities, so there is no need to to contact the county to have it removed. The deadline for submission was Aug. 31, hence the need for the special meeting Friday. The council doesn't meet again until September.
The ballot question would have asked whether to retain the current commission form of government. That was simple enough. Problems would have arisen if the question was voted down, according to city attorney Dennis Triggs. According to state law, the city would have reverted to a default aldermanic form of government and a lot of uncertainty.
"The more questions we had, the more uncertain they became," Mingus said.
Commissioners Gary Densberger and John Kahl, repeated their earlier opposition to the referendum question. Densberger supports a change to a city manager form of government. Kahl supports keeping the commission form of government.
Commissioners Dan Decker and Tim Jeffers repeated their earlier support of the referendum. A petition with more than 200 signatures in support of a change in government convinced Decker to let voters decide the issue, not the city council, Decker said. This time, Decker and Jeffers were on the losing side of the question.
After a bloodless and dispassionate discussion about yanking the referendum question from the ballot, the meeting heated up when a resident commented about a recent unrelated decision by a commissioner to retain a city employee after that person was accused of theft of city property. The decision was held up as an example of the flaws of the commission form of government that allows the decision of one commissioner, in this case Dan Decker who oversees the city's streets department, to prevail over the opinion of a majority of commissioners.
Decker defended his decision not to fire the employee, saying that the person's explanation provided another side of the story that didn't warrant dismissal. Commissioner Kahl argued that the situation was mishandled and that the decision should have been up to the whole council, not only the commissioner who oversees the department.
"Theft is theft," Kahl said.
Former mayor Jeff Gielbelhausen seized on the argument to express his opinion that the city government should be changed. He ticked off several examples of the commission form investing unchecked authority in individual commissioners who oversee city departments — including a city employee contract that was negotiated without legal representation. He warned about the damage a future "rogue" commissioner could inflict on the city.
"The potential for abuse is huge," Giebelhausen said.
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.