State Rep. Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, introduced a bill earlier this month to eliminate some township clerk positions in Will County, specifically those in her district.
The initial version of H.B. 3301, filed by Manley on Feb. 15, said it would eliminate all township clerks in Will County, but after an amendment last week, the bill now says it would eliminate the clerks in six townships: Joliet, Troy, Lockport, DuPage, Wheatland and Plainfield. The bill has the Will County clerk assuming the duties and rights of each township clerk until a deputy clerk is appointed for each.
Manley said the bill was an effort to do something for property tax relief. Even if the clerks’ salaries weren’t exorbitant, she asked why residents should have to pay for “duplicative services.”
In 2019, the salaries of those clerks ranged from $1,250 in Troy to $67,000 in Joliet.
Manley called the bill a “pilot program” and questioned how many residents actually use the services of the township clerks. Generally, township clerks are the record keepers of the township government and board meetings, administer oaths, post legal notices and even oversee local election services.
“I’m of the mind that we need to try something new,” Manley said. “People have elected me to address and tackle problems.”
But the Will County Republican Central Committee put out a news release saying it was “outraged by this bald-faced attack on our elections and on our townships’ autonomy.” The party’s local chair, George Pearson, accused Manley of targeting her “political enemies” pointing out that some of the clerks elected in those townships were Republican.
Responding to the Republicans, Manley said she wasn’t targeting anyone, and the accusation was “grasping at straws.”
“Shame on them for not trying to help minimize the burden on taxpayers,” she said.
In fact four of the clerks elected, in DuPage, Plainfield, Troy and Wheatland Townships were Republicans when elected in 2017. Two of those individuals, the clerks in DuPage and Plainfield townships, have since been replaced.
The clerks in Joliet and Lockport townships are Democrats. The Lockport Township clerk, Denise Muschro Rumchak, ran against the current Will County clerk, Lauren Staley-Ferry, in the Democratic primary last year. Manley insisted she would have pushed for this legislation regardless of who was the Will County clerk.
Rumchak declined to comment.