Township Supervisor Gary Gaspard submitted his resignation on Oct. 17, effective Oct. 18. In a short letter to Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and City/Township Clerk Rodney Greene, Mr. Gaspard said the job “requires more time than I anticipated. Because of the time commitments, I regret to tell you I can no longer serve.”
At a special Township Board meeting held on Oct. 21, the Township trustees – the City’s nine aldermen and the mayor – appointed City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz interim Township Supervisor. Health Department Director Evonda Thomas-Smith will oversee the day-to-day operations of the Township.
Shortly after his resignation, Mr. Gaspard told the RoundTable, “I am going to prepare something for the media, but I’m not ready for that yet. ... I don’t want to embarrass anyone.”
Over the past several months, tensions have been rising from almost every direction. The Council and Supervisor Gaspard did battle over the budget at nearly every meeting. A recent Township bill for more than $17,000 for a classified ad seeking applicants for a $25,000/year position that was not in the Township budget appeared to push things over the edge. Mr. Gaspard reportedly dismissed two Township employees before he resigned.
The Township trustees held a meeting in closed session to discuss the appointment of the new Township supervisor, then approved the appointment in public session immediately afterward. Aldermen Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, and Don Wilson, 4th Ward, voted against the immediate appointment, saying they preferred to wait until after a plan was in place – perhaps a week – before appointing a new supervisor. The vote to confirm Mr. Bobkiewicz was thus 7-3, since the Mayor is a voting member of the Township board.
The “plan,” was not specified but at least one alderman alluded to the League of Women Voters of Evanston, which had submitted a letter containing several questions to the Mayor, the City Manager and the aldermen regarding the future of Township programs, should a referendum to dissolve Evanston Township government pass in the March 2014 election. The letter also asked how such programs would be funded, the estimated time for the transition of services to the City and how the transition would be evaluated.
“The plan should be in place within a week or two,” said Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward. “The community needs to know what’s going to happen.”
Asked whether he would reinstate the two Township employees, Mr. Bobkiewicz told the RoundTable, “I have begun to evaluate current staffing and will hire staff per approved budget to ensure Township services are delivered to the best of our ability.”
Mr. Bobkiewicz also said “No major changes are contemplated at this time. … First and foremost we plan to ensure we deliver appropriate General Assistance to the residents of Evanston Township.”
The trustees did not appoint a new Township assessor; Sharon Eckersall, who was elected to that position and was to have been sworn in on Jan. 1, 2014, died a few weeks ago.
The Township government will continue to operate until its fate is decided in the spring election. City officials are in the process of preparing for the ballot a binding referendum question asking whether to abolish the Township government. A binding referendum mandates that the governing body comply with the result. An advisory referendum, such as was on the March 2012 ballot, is an expression of the will of the voters. In that referendum, nearly 67 percent of the voters said they would like to dissolve the Evanston Township government.
In response to a question from the RoundTable, Mr. Bobkiewicz also confirmed that he plans to serve as Township supervisor until the aftermath of the results of the March referendum, assuming Council approved the question. If the people vote to dissolve the Township government, he said he and Ms. Thomas-Smith would oversee the dissolution of the Township and the transfer of services and responsibilities to the City.
A snag in the evening’s proceedings occurred when some Township electors complained that they had been unable to change the agenda of the Township meeting. Betty Ester and Mary Baker showed up as electors – that is, residents of Evanston Township – but were told that the evening’s meeting was a meeting of the trustees – a Town board meeting – rather that a Township meeting. Electors may call a special Township meeting under certain conditions, and the annual Township meeting is held in April.