Maywood — After a tense moment of haphazard deliberation, the Village Board voted 3-2 to approve Mayor Yarbrough’s selection of outgoing Trustee Audrey Jaycox to the seat recently vacated first by former Trustee Dominique Flowers and then by incoming Trustee Michael Rogers. Trustees Gil Guzman and Edwenna Perkins provided the two nays, with Trustees Melvin Lightford and Ron Rivers providing the yeas. Mayor Yarbrough was the tie-breaker.
The appointment left many of those gathered in the Village chambers for yesterday’s Special Meeting bewildered, confused and angry. Some questioned whether Jaycox’s appointment to fill the seat was even legal. Trustee Guzman cited Ordinance 36.03, which regulates the use of public funds apportioned to each trustee. Guzman claimed that Jaycox violated the ordinance by taking more than the maximum of two trips allowed by the law.
Mayor-elect Perkins both reinforced and added to Guzman’s point, claiming that, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Trustee Jaycox had yet to reimburse the Village for those trips, thus disqualifying her from taking the seat. Village ordinance states that any person who owes the town money cannot occupy public office. At certain points in Mrs. Perkins and Mr. Guzman’s comments, the room seemed to mirror the call-and-response atmosphere of a church setting.
As Mrs. Perkins and Mr. Guzman were challenging Village Attorney Michael Jurusik on his point that the outstanding travel expenses owed by Ms. Jaycox might not constitute a true debt (“It has to be truly a debt…nothing was brought to my attention during the election [proving this]”), someone in the audience shouted, “She didn’t run again — she didn’t want to be trustee again!”
“I’m not sure she [Ms. Jaycox] owes the Village the typical arrear[s],” said Mr. Jurusik. Mrs. Perkins continued to emphasize her point. “There were many trips made by Trustee Jaycox. Many, many, many.” Jurusik said that the Village has a policy that allows trustees to spend money and to take trips. “How many trips?!” someone in the audience shouted.
For her part, Ms. Jaycox insisted, “I don’t have any bills to the Village in my name.” As for the trips, she was adamant that they served a purpose. “Let me tell you about those trips, Village of Maywood. I have taken Maywood higher than –” A chorus of heckling erupted from the audience before Mayor Yarbrough pounded his gavel, bringing the room to order. Jaycox highlighted her work on the Public Safety & Crime Commission Steering Committee of the National League of Cities; her advancement to the diamond level of the League’s Leadership Training Council; her role in bringing back the prescription drug program to Maywood (“It doesn’t work!” someone in the audience shouted); and numerous other personal accomplishments. “We have been at the forefront of many things, but you guys don’t even know it, because we don’t have a newspaper…” she said.
Not long into the Board’s back-and-forth, a number of things become frighteningly apparent. The very person responsible for ensuring that the appointment process was within the law, Mr. Jurusik, is also someone who appears to have had a glaringly apparent self-interest in the Yarbrough campaign. “It’s public knowledge that Jurusik donated $13,000 to [Yarbrough and/or the Maywood United Party],” a woman said after the open meeting ended. And according to FOIA records, his law firm brought in thousands of dollars in legal fees during Maywood United’s rash of challenges against opposing candidates such as Isiah Brandon and Joe Ratley.
Moreover, as Trustees Guzman and Perkins demonstrated, there was a frightening lack of due diligence with regard to Jaycox’s appointment. Mr. Guzman said that he received the meeting agenda on a Saturday, but did not know who Mayor Yarbrough’s nomination was going to be until the day of the meeting. Mrs. Perkins expressed the same confusion. “If we had known who the individual was who you were going to appoint [it would not look as circumspect],” she told the Mayor.
The audience seemed just as bewildered. After the appointment passed with the 3-2 vote, several residents came forward with public comments. Some rose to vent their frustration at the appointment process, others to praise Yarbrough for his role in forming the Senior Club and promoting various special events, such as the Gospel Fest and Maywood Fest, during his tenure.
One of the meeting’s subplots involved the Senior Club and attempts by many of its members to persuade the Board into allowing Larry Shapiro, Yarbrough’s Communications Director and the Village’s Senior Citizen Coordinator, to stay on in his latter role, which he automatically vacated when he resigned the former. The two titles had been combined into one person. In order for Mr. Shapiro to continue as Coordinator, new funds would need to be allocated to essentially create the office again. At one point, the members of the Senior Club broke out in a chant, “We want Larry! We want Larry!”
Despite the Senior Club’s vigorous lobbying, the main theme of the public comment portion of the meeting was the trustee appointment. “If Jaycox is going to resign as trustee then why is she going to accept another trustee position [for two years]?” said Lorretta Robinson.
Ms. Jaycox effectively holds two seats now that she’s been appointed by the Mayor to fill the Rogers vacancy — her own seat, which she essentially ceded to run for Village clerk and that she still occupies until May 21, and the one she’s recently been appointed to. “I know that the law of physics doesn’t allow two things to occupy the same space at the same time,” Robinson asserted.
Whether or not the law of physics is consistent with municipal law is yet to be determined. “We cannot accept this irresponsibility on the part of this Board! […] We are tired! We are not going to accept this under-handed craziness!” said Robinson. After the meeting, Robinson and other residents said they were determined to go through the proper channels to find out the lawfulness of Jaycox’s appointment.
John Yi, President of the Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization (NoMCO), stood up to read his organization’s recommendation that both Mayor Yarbrough and Mayor-elect Perkins appoint the “next-highest-vote-receiving candidates for Village Trustee to the vacant seats created by our most recent local elections.” Mayor Yarbrough publicly recognized the NoMCO proposal, saying it made sense, before twisting its logic and claiming that, according to the NoMCO plan, Ms Jaycox would qualify as the next-highest-vote-getter, even though she did not run for trustee.
In point of fact, after Melvin Lightford, Michael Rogers and Antonette Dorris, the next-highest-vote-getter among candidates who ran for the position of trustee is Marcius Scaggs of the All In for Maywood (AIM) party. Scaggs is followed by JoAnn Murphy (also with AIM) and Cheryl Ealey-Cross (independent). Ms. Jaycox falls nowhere in the picture.
As far as representative democracy goes, that is a very overt sin of omission, one that many people who voted will not likely forget anytime soon. During his public comments, Lennel Grace employed the rhetorical tactic of reading a litany of characteristics that described what public service is not. “Elevating yourself above the people […] Striving for personal gain […] Characterizing a minority of residents who are ‘always angry’ [referencing a quote attributed to Michael Rogers, who was absent] […] I find that insulting!”
“And now,” a high-pitched voice shouted out from the crowd, “we’re mad as hell!”