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McLean County's top election official calls for special meeting to request police at Eastland Mall

Lyndsay Jones
/
WGLT
McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael is calling on county board members to hold a special meeting over a request for police presence at Eastland Mall during early voting this year. The call for a special meeting comes after a requested budget amendment failed to gain traction earlier this week.

McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael is calling on county board members to hold a special meeting over a request for police presence during early voting at Eastland Mall this year.

The call for a special meeting comes after a requested budget amendment failed to gain traction earlier this week.

That's when Michael appeared before the county board's finance committee, seeking approval of a budget amendment to put $25,000 toward paying a sheriff's deputy to remain at Eastland Mall from Feb. 8 to March 19 — the 40-day period of early voting in Illinois. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day.

But the request failed to gain any traction during the meeting. While one member — Republican Chuck Erickson — made a motion to bring it before the bipartisan, six-person committee for discussion, no other members seconded it, meaning it could not be discussed or taken up for a vote.

"I was stunned," Michael said Friday. "I was not expecting that."

Michael said she reluctantly called a news conference Friday morning to "let the public know that I'm not dropping this issue."

"And I am confident that with the increased security concerns all across the United States, that administration and our county board members will help us but again, help us sooner rather than later," Michael said.

She said she is now asking county board members to call a special meeting so the matter can be presented again, this time to the full board. Illinois Counties Code stipulates such a meeting can be held if requested by at least a third of all board members.

If the county board does call a special meeting, members will have to decide whether the request has merit.

Democratic board member Jack Abraham wrote on social media that the request for a deputy at the mall represented a "non-issue and taxpayer dollars should not be wasted in this manner." The requested budget amendment would have moved the money from election-related equipment to a different line item to pay for the officer's presence.

Finance committee member Natalie Roseman-Mendoza said, as presented, the request was not "reasonably fulfillable."

"The request we were given was difficult to approve due to a lack of resources and a lack of confirmation of where those funds would come from," she said. "It wasn't a matter of not wanting some security there; it was a matter of how limited the resources were coming from the sheriff's department."

Roseman-Mendoza said the request for a deputy to remain at Eastland Mall from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day during early voting comes at a time when the department has multiple open positions that need to be filled.

"It's really hard to justify taking somebody off of more pressing matters," she said.

Michael said she originally wanted a deputy at Eastland Mall for a 24 hours each day, but the finalized agreement between the clerk's office and the sheriff's office limited the presence to polling hours.

Sheriff Matt Lane, who agreed to provide a deptuy if the board approved the budget amendment, told WGLT the request is preemptive, at this point, and not based on an identified threat at Eastland Mall.

"I don't think there's cause for alarm. ... I think the county clerk is concerned of what may happen, which is admirable, but I don't have any knowledge of a specific threat to our elections at this point," he said. "I'm not saying security is not needed at all, but I don't have anything specific to say I need to be there at this point."

Lane said officers already have a practice of increasing patrols in certain areas during elections at the request of the clerk's office.

The next scheduled meeting of the county board's finance committee is Feb. 7, meaning that if the budget amendment is presented there again and approved, it wouldn't go before the full county board until Feb. 15 — a week after early voting is underway.

A special board meeting would expedite the process of getting the proposed budget amendment in front of board members again. Michael said of the seven members needed to make that happen, four have agreed to do so, including Erickson and fellow Republicans George Wendt, Randy Knapp and Geoff Tompkins.

Erickson could not be reached for comment Friday.

Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.
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