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A Publication of WTVP

Last month, I provided information regarding the many duties of the city clerk. But that was only half the story. In fact, the statutes list a relatively small amount of duties under the title municipal clerk; however, the legislature has scattered many duties assigned to the clerk throughout many of the other statutes. When the present clerk took office more than 18 years ago, she had a computer search of the statutes to locate all of the clerk's duties listed in various statutes, but not indexed. The pages were then copied and measure more than eight inches high-that's about the same size as two volumes. So in some ways, the office is a "catch all" office. And if one reads that phrase correctly, that's one reason many say, "Clerks make it work." The office truly catches all. The clerk interacts with every department and must learn the documents of every department and office to execute, file, and index the documents each department brings to the council.

Staff members are encouraged to understand any record they place, file, number, and cross-reference isn't for their children, but for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Given that context, the staff carefully maintains Peoria's link from past to future. Care is given so each document presented to the council by title and actions that amend, repeal, rescind, or extend are carefully noted so citizens, the council, and the administrative staff can be assured of having the complete record. While some readily acknowledge the importance of money, information can be as important, if not more important, and many court cases are won due to accurate noticing and correctly filing documents. In addition, the clerk maintains an aggressive records management program by microfilming, imaging, eliminating, and/or storing off-site. Given the preservation issues created by 9-11 and Homeland Security, maintaining document integrity is vital.

The clerk is a trustee on the Board of the Firemen's Pension of Peoria. The fund has grown to $84 million and counting. Each year, the clerk is elected board secretary and coordinates the files of approximately 194 active firefighters, 139 retired firefighters, and 50 widows. The clerk figures regular retirement and disability pensions, in conjunction with the fire chief, as well as clerking the pension board meetings. Peoria is one of the few boards that meet monthly; most pension boards meet quarterly.

The clerk is also ex-officio township clerk and, as such, has to administer two separate governments daily. Timeframes and deadlines are different. For example, the city budget must be placed with the clerk 10 days before passage, while the town budget must be placed with the clerk 30 days before passage. Technically, the township is known as the Town of the City of Peoria and once had the same boundaries as the city. Now, outlying townships retain their property within their township when Peoria annexes property, so the Town of the City of Peoria no longer grows with the city. Thus, the town clerk administers two government boundaries, two distinct fiscal years, two budgets, two sets of employees, two sets of equipment, two records management/preservation systems, and the clerk must account for each separately.

The clerk sits on the Township Budget Committee and attends all meetings of the Township Corporate Author-ities, in addition to presenting the documents for the annual town meeting where our citizens can vote on some issues. The Township Corporate Authorities is comprised of the city council members, acting as town trustees. So the clerk keeps records, issues notices, and keeps the minutes for the Budget Committee, the board of trustees of the Town of the City of Peoria, and for the citizens of the township when the annual town meeting occurs every April-each as a separate entity. And just as is the case with the city, the clerk then executes the documents, files the appropriate documents with the next level of government, and numbers and indexes the documents and the board action. In addition, the clerk acts as a check and balance for the office of supervisor of general assistance, co-signing and verifying each check and expenditure, and balancing bank statements, as well as maintaining a separate records management/preservation program for the town records.

The clerk presents topics at council orientation sessions ranging from how the council does its legislative work, as that relates to her office, to parliamentary procedure.

She assists citizens running for council regarding requirements for the office and documents relating to current issues, swears in council members and city officials, is active in the city's Speaker's Bureau, is a member of the Illinois Municipal League Legislative Committee, and chairs the Municipal Clerks of Illinois Legislative Committee. In those two capacities, the clerk monitors legislation that affects local government. Each November, Peoria hosts the Illinois Municipal League's kick-off Legislative Committee meeting, where the local government officials throughout the state decide which issues will be supported or opposed during the next session of the General Assembly. The clerk's office plays a major role in hosting that event as well.

Every clerk's office across the state differs from others. No two are alike, and each is governed by local ordinances and customs, as well as state statute. Few citizens are familiar with all of the duties and services the city clerk's office provides. Therefore, the frequent question one hears is, "What does a city clerk do?" Hopefully, this information helps to answer that question.

Peoria's clerk is elected and is currently serving her fifth term. She's fortunate to have four excellent staff members who are known throughout the city and state for making it all work. IBI

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