Pekin mayor removes historic preservation commission co-chair
The Pekin mayor's decision to remove the co-chair of the city's historic preservation commission will stand.
Mayor Mary Burress had city clerk Sue McMillan hand-deliver a letter to Deborah Montgomery on Aug. 7 informing her that she was being booted off the commission.
A motion requiring a two-thirds majority of members voting to restore Deborah Montgomery to the commission failed. Council members Becky Cloyd, Rick Hilst, and Lloyd Orrick voted in favor.
Burress said the commission asked the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office to evaluate whether the downtown Arcade Building was eligible for the National Historic Registry without consulting the city council.
Tazewell County plans to raze the building and the neighboring Tobin Building as part of a Justice Center expansion project. The county did vote to salvage the façade of the Arcade Building as part of the demolition bid.
Montgomery said her actions were misconstrued to justify removing her.
"I am frankly surprised since the mayor ran on a campaign of saving the buildings," Montgomery said during the meeting's public comment period. "I only wish she would have fulfilled that promise instead of getting, and seeking, retribution because she was angry that one building may be saved."
Montgomery said the Arcade Building has been determined to be historically significant enough for submission to the National Historic Preservation Commission for consideration.
Burress said the commission voted to submit the evaluation request to the state on July 20 despite having no action item included in the posted agenda. Montgomery said any member of the public can submit a building to the state's Historic Preservation Office for evaluation, but she conceded the commission had erred by voting without including it on the agenda.
The mayor also said the city attorney had to intervene to avoid an Open Meetings Act violation on June 28 when Montgomery attempted to convene a meeting with less than the legally-required 48 hours notice.
Council member Dave Nutter said he attempted multiple meetings of the commission and had attempted to explain things to them. He said they struggled as a new commission, but they also haven't followed directions.
"They were also told, at least twice, by myself, you can't just arbitrarily go out and do things on your own. You are a recommending body. That didn't happen," Nutter said.
On July 27, the mayor said Montgomery also asked the city clerk why she was speaking to someone outside the commission about their business. Burress said Montgomery's tone was accusatory and "unprofessional," and said the city clerk has a legitimate interest in discussing city business with others. Montgomery denied the mayor's description of her tone, and claimed she was just trying to get answers.
The council also appointed Katey Thomas to the Historic Preservation Commission on Monday night. This is Burress' first appointment to the commission. Previous appointments were made under the direction of former mayor pro tem Becky Cloyd.