Elgin voters must decide fate of mayor

By Observer editorial February 01, 2012 04:02 pm
Elgin voters must decide the fate of Mayor John Stover in a Feb. 28 recall election. 

Stover filed a rebuttal to a recall petition last week after the county clerk verified 100 signatures of Elgin voters, five more than the number needed for the recall effort to proceed. 

The mayor then had the option to resign but decided to defend himself and face the recall election. 

The recall effort, launched by the Elgin Political Action Committee, stems from a long-brewing controversy over Elgin Police Department issues that came to a head Aug. 1, when Officer Erik Kilpatrick shot Elgin resident Richard Shafer to death during a domestic disturbance call. 

A grand jury ruled the shooting justified, but outrage over the incident plus a host of other police performance issues have dominated subsequent city council meetings. 

An independent review of the Elgin Police Department by the state association of police chiefs found its management to be lacking. But the recall petitioners blame Stover for Elgin's police issues. 

The group accuses the mayor of failing to respond to a 2010 petition requesting a review of the police department and takes him to task for not evaluating the police chief's performance. 

In the petition, they say Stover's actions "demonstrate a significant lack of required skills, knowledge and ability to serve effectively." 

In his rebuttal to the recall petition, Stover argues that the full city council and not the mayor is responsible for responding to citizen petitions and for evaluating the police chief's performance. He has said the chief is responsible for evaluating the police department. 

The mayor’s defenders have pointed out Stover’s many contributions to the community, especially his efforts on behalf of the opera house. His detractors can’t argue with that but fault the way he handles meetings and controls city government. 

The petition even accuses Stover of calling and canceling meetings without public notice but Stover said in his rebuttal that all Elgin council meetings have met the requirements of laws governing public meetings. 

The recall effort has forced many residents into two camps, those who oppose Stover and those who support him, and The Observer's opinion pages have been filled with letters to the editor on both sides. 

The acrimony has been so fierce that a lifelong Elgin resident spoke at a recent council meeting and urged everyone to bring civility back to their city. 

"We need to love one another and not tear each other down," Bob Wiles Sr. told his neighbors. 

But the healing process in Elgin cannot begin until the mayor's fate is decided. 

We won’t tell Elgin voters what to do. 

If they believe that Mayor Stover deserves to be recalled, they should give him the boot. If they think he deserves to stay in office, they should vote to keep him. 

Majority rules. Let the people decide.