Hanks replaces Towers as Sauk Village mayor
BY CASEY TONER firstname.lastname@example.org November 8, 2012 9:54AM
Trustee David Hanks at the Sauk Village Police Department Monday, Jan. 23, 2012, in Sauk Village. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 10, 2012 6:21AM
Longtime Sauk Village Trustee David Hanks on Thursday night was appointed interim mayor of the village, about 24 hours after Lewis Towers abruptly resigned.
The village board voted Hanks in during an emergency meeting at the Sauk Village Municipal Center, Trustee Rosie Williams said. The board consensus was that Hanks would be a good fit as an interim mayor since he is not running in April for the permanent seat, Williams said.
Trustee Enoch Benson, a supporter of Towers, cast the lone “no” vote against Hanks’ appointment, Williams said. Benson and Trustee Derrick Burgess are expected to run for mayor in April.
“For 31/2 years, we’ve been taking two steps forward, one step back,” Williams said. “In the next six months, we can try to right some of those wrongs.”
Hanks, a board member for more than 13 years, said before the meeting that he believed he would be appointed.
“I don’t think all our problems will be solved overnight,” Hanks said. “We’re going to work hard on bringing our motto back: ‘Pride and progress.’ We’re going to work on bringing our meetings in order and having decorum.”
Towers spoke Wednesday night to village attorney Burt Odelson, who said Thursday that Towers told him “he was just tired of the fighting and tired of the lawsuits and he had to think of his family first.”
In an email sent to village officials Wednesday night, Towers said while grateful for his time as mayor, “my family and health must come first.”
Towers on Monday had announced the appointment of a police chief (former Chief Robert Fox) and village manager (former village manager Henrietta Turner) as well as the hiring of a new legal counsel. But the police chief and village manager positions were abolished by the village board as of Nov. 1, and questions remained over how they would be paid, if at all.
Odelson’s law firm was originally hired by Towers, who later tried to fire him. The village board intervened, and Odelson remains the Sauk Village attorney.
But Towers said he hired attorney Stepfon R. Smith, of Smith Amundsen LLC, to represent Sauk Village.
In the summer, the village had to buy bottled water for residents because after years of warnings, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency determined that its drinking water was unsafe. Already facing a budget shortfall, the village had to spend about $1 million on legal fees and equipment for water filtration to make the water safe again, which it is.
Towers had been in a running feud with village trustees — some of whom were members of Towers’ slate when he was elected nearly four years ago.
When Towers originally hired Fox as police chief, the village board attempted to lock Fox out of his own office. A court battle ensued, and Towers won the right to appoint Fox as chief.
By abolishing the office, and placing the fire chief in charge of both the police and fire departments (while giving Fox a financial package to leave), village trustees thought they’d solved that political problem.
Meanwhile, Turner, the village manager, is involved in litigation with Sauk Village over her dismissal.
Odelson said Towers went through “five or six legal firms” in his three-plus years as mayor, apparently hoping to find one whose opinions agreed with his own.
Village board meetings grew so contentious that Cook County sheriff’s police have been called out to keep the peace.
The Sauk Village clerk had called on the Cook County state’s attorney, Illinois attorney general and U.S. attorney’s office to intervene in the political feud. Towers had said he had also gone to the state’s attorney and Illinois attorney general because “the village board won’t allow me to function as the chief executive.”
Towers, an employee of the Cook County assessor’s office, was recently suspended for taking a property tax exemption to which he was not entitled.
Contributing: Phil Kadner, Sun-Times Media Wire