Park Ridge city council contemplates future of city clerk position

After hearing from Park Ridge residents about what the city could do to reduce its staff, Mayor Marty Maloney asked the city clerk, Sal Raspanti, to make a presentation to the City Council about the clerk’s roles and responsibilities.

In Park Ridge, the clerk is an elected position, but the City Council is contemplating allowing voters to decide through referendum whether the role should remain an elected one or be appointed by the council. City Attorney Adam Simon said the city would still need a clerk, but the council would need to reassign the position’s responsibilities to other staff members and appoint a clerk.

First Ward Alderman John Moran said removing the elected clerk role first came up when the clerk before Raspanti, Betty Henneman, had to take significant time off for medical reasons, and the deputy clerk had to take on the clerk’s responsibilities.

“It had gotten to the point that she had sort of offloaded so much stuff, and it just didn’t really make much of a difference in our daily operating (procedures),” said Moran.

“No resident suffered any additional headaches or anything like that because of her absence,” Moran added.

Moran said that while Henneman was clerk, the subject of bringing the position to referendum was too new to bring to the Council. City Manager Joe Gilmore agreed with Moran on how the subject came to the Council but added that because Raspanti took on additional roles from the deputy clerk, the clerk’s role has changed since the subject was first brought up.

“You may have to lose some things,” Gilmore said of the prospect of transferring some of the clerk’s duties to the deputy clerk, “but it may be palatable.”

“For the record, I want everybody to know that I’m happy with the way the role is,” Raspanti said. “I’m also more than happy to take on additional tasks if that’s what people want.”

Fourth Ward Alderman Harmony Harrington said she appreciates Raspanti’s transparency and his taking on additional roles. However, she was concerned that a future clerk would not have the same initiative to do the same as he has.

In Park Ridge, the clerk has a base salary of $9,000 a year and works an average of 11.5 hours per week. If the clerk were to work more than 600 hours per year, the clerk would be eligible for a pension, according to Gilmore. The deputy clerk, a staff position, earns a base salary $76,700.

It wouldn’t be the first time an elected city post has been eliminated in Park Ridge. In 2005, the City Council voted to move the treasurer’s responsibilities to the city’s Finance Department and the Council’s Budget and Finance Committee and then disposed of the treasurer position, according to previous reporting.

And in 2007, voters decided through a referendum to reduce the size of the City Council from 14 aldermen to seven.

According to city documents, the city clerk’s responsibilities include delivering communications and resolutions from the City Council to the city’s departments, delivering to the mayor all ordinances or resolutions, signing documents that need the clerk’s signature, conducting all election duties as required by law, administering oaths of office, and keeping a journal of all proceedings of the city council.

Raspanti told Pioneer Press that he likes the clerk’s role in interacting with the public, more so even than other positions in the council. “My predecessor told me her favorite part of the job was that it gave her an opportunity to help people,” Raspanti said. “She always had the goal of people walking away from whatever interaction they had feeling happy about the experience, and I’ve tried to carry that forward in my time as city clerk.”

Raspanti was previously on the City Council from 2011 to 2013, and he represented the 4th Ward. He served on the Park Ridge Park District board from 2005 to 2009 and was on the city’s Planning and Zoning commission from 2009 to 2011, according to previous reporting. In 2022, Raspanti ran against Laura Murphy for Illinois’ 28th Senate District, where he lost.

The City Council has until Aug. 19 to decide if they want the role to go to a referendum in the November election.