By Michael Romain
What was intended as a means of cleaning a messy system maintained by the previous mayor has turned into a public relations fiasco for new Mayor Edwenna Perkins.
“The form I was left with was incomplete,” Mrs. Perkins said. She’s referring to a listing of every citizen who voluntarily serves on a committee or commission in Maywood. She claims that the beginning and/or end dates for some individuals’ term limits were missing and there were people listed on commissions and committees who had moved out of the community.
Deputy Clerk Lenore Sanchez affirmed Mrs. Perkins’s claim of an incomplete listing left by the previous mayor. “It’s incumbent on the mayor’s office to let us know what is the term of office for each commissioner,” she said. However, Mayor Yarbrough’s office never responded to her office’s requests for this information.
“So, in order to put the list back together […] I asked everyone to resign from their position and if they wanted to remain on the committee all they had to do was resubmit their information,” said Mrs. Perkins. She also noted that the resubmission form she used was the one used by former Mayor Henderson Yarbrough.
That Mayor Perkins asked for resignations, instead of explicitly removing the individuals, is a critical distinction. According to paragraph E of Village Ordinance 3.30.01, the “President has the power to remove any officer appointed by him on any formal charge whenever he is of the opinion that the interests of the Village demand such removal. He shall report the reasons for such removal to the Board at a meeting to be held not less than 5 days, nor more than 10 days after such removal. If the President shall fail or refuse to file with the Clerk a statement of the reasons for such removal or if the Board, by a two-thirds vote […] disapprove of such removal, such officer shall thereupon become restored to the office from which he was removed […]”
It seems that the resignation letters may have offered the Mayor a way to fix the messy listing without going through a cumbersome removal process detailed in the ordinance. But while the letters conveniently circumvented the board process, they also created a host of complications.
For one, they don’t have an answer for dealing with those commissioners and committee members who refuse to simply resign and resubmit, instead opting to serve the remainder of their terms anyway. In that case, outright removal is perhaps the only feasible alternative. This would force the Mayor to clear the rolls by going through a messy board removal process, the very scenario that the letters apparently were supposed to prevent.
The Mayor insisted that everyone, without exception, receive the letters so as to preempt any suspicion of political or personal bias. But not only has it not quenched that suspicion, the well-intended gesture seems to have alienated some of Mrs. Perkins’s most ardent supporters.
Dorothy Lane Thomas, who sat on the Water Review Commission, is among Mrs. Perkins’s most vocal proponents. But she says that her receipt of a resignation letter has dampened her enthusiasm for the new Mayor.
“I’ve been in this village for over 50 years and I’ve probably been its most outstanding volunteer […] On the letter she said you can put in your resume and credentials and I’m trying to figure out what credentials you need to volunteer if you’ve been active in your village for over 50 years,” said Mrs. Thomas.
“I’m not angry with her just hurt. I’ll still support her, but the closeness that was there isn’t there now. It makes you wonder what she will do next.”
Jeri Stenson was on the Special Events Commission before she resigned after suddenly receiving her letter.
“I was hurt,” Mrs. Stenson said. “I had to turn my letter in that day. It was a Friday when I got it and I had to turn it in the following Monday, June 24th. This is the first time in 50 years that something like this has happened.”
Although Mayor Perkins has said that she has already reappointed the members of the Special Events Commission based on a request submitted by Mrs. Stenson on their behalf, Mrs. Stenson denies that this happened.
“I saw her one day coming out of the post office while I was going in. And, because we hadn’t been reappointed in a while, I asked when we were going to be reappointed. She said, ‘I’ll send you a letter.’,” said Mrs. Stenson, who claims that this was the extent of her discussion with the Mayor on the issue.
Mrs. Stenson believes that the mass mailing is part of Mayor Perkins’s personal vendetta “to get rid of those appointed from all of the other mayoral administrations.”
Terrance Jones had been on the Maywood Housing Authority commission since 2010. He received his resignation letter in April—effective May 1. Mr. Jones said that the Mayor seemed to make her decision in haste, without a sufficient review process.
“She’s only been in office since May, so the time you assess before you assume is going to be more than 30 days. I find it interesting that she would disrupt the flow of the board without any type of regard for what may or may not have been processed,” he said. “A lot of things that were in action will have to get halted or disrupted, especially if she tries to replace the entire board.”
It’s not clear whether most of the commissioners and committee members actually understand the Mayor’s intentions, while others may understand, but are nonetheless hurt by the gesture. Many were shocked by the suddenness of the mass resignation requests and by the impersonal nature of the communication. Mr. Jones is one of several other individuals who say that they never directly spoke to the Mayor before being asked to resign their positions via mail.
In fairness to Mayor Perkins, her options for dealing with the partial listing left behind by the previous mayor seemed genuinely limited. “I don’t think there would’ve been another way to actually get a clean slate and have a better understanding, because then you’d have to guess your way through,” said Deputy Clerk Sanchez of the decision to release the letters.
But hurt volunteers such as Mrs. Thomas and Mrs. Stenson believe that the best measure for dealing with the incomplete listing may also be the best measure for correcting an attempt at reform that has gotten out of hand—some old-fashioned face time.
Mrs. Stenson, along with many others, believes that the Mayor should’ve simply sat down with each commission and committee individually to fill in and/or correct information from the old listing.
“Mayor Perkins should talk to people who were hurt by the letters,” she said. “It might change some of their minds.” VFP