Springfield Corporation Counsel Resigns, Second Time in Six Months
The “Help Wanted” sign is out again in Springfield’s corporation counsel office.
Retired judge John Mehlick, who had been serving as Mayor Mike Houston’s top lawyer since the summer, has submitted his resignation, effective December 14th.
A spokesman for Houston was in the meeting where Mehlick announced his decision, but says Mehlick did not offer a reason for his departure.
Mehlick stepped in after Mark Cullen resigned as corporation counsel following revelations about his role in the police department file shredding scandal.
But in recent weeks, Mehlick has clashed with aldermen on several issues… including their claims that he has dragged his feet on drafting ordinances for them.
Aldermen Question Motive for Conflict Claims Against Cahnman
Two Springfield aldermen say their issues with the Houston administration go straight to the top… and suggest that the most recent public dispute makes it look like the mayor has something to hide.
Houston and his legal team said this week that Alderman Sam Cahnman has a conflict of interest and should not be involved in discussions over settling the police department file shredding lawsuit.
Plaintiff Calvin Christian has retained Cahnman to defend him in several recent traffic citation cases brought by the city.
But Cahnman… who has demanded more disclosure from the mayor’s office about the file shredding case…says it looks like the mayor just wants to silence him. Alderman Joe McMenamin agrees.
Lawmaker Criticizes Pension Reform Not Including Judges
A local lawmaker is questioning why judges are being singled out for special treatment on the issue of pension reform.
While the bill passed this week makes significant changes to four of the state’s five public pension systems, the system that governs pensions for judges was exempt.
Republican Representative Bill Mitchell of Forsyth says that decision makes judges a “new aristocracy” who don’t have to face the same rules or challenges as other public employees.
Critics of the pension reform bill contend judges were left out in order to improve the chances that the bill would withstand a court challenge.
DJ Claims High-Level Connections Involved in Recent Arrest
A DJ at a downtown Springfield club… who was arrested this week for playing music too loud… says he was targeted by someone with high-level connections.
Sean Layton, who works under the name DJ Evo, is charged with disorderly conduct and a city noise ordinance violation.
Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Kramer Show” Wednesday, he believes the complaint originated with a state lawmaker who was staying in an apartment above Marley’s Pub… and contends that official contacted people high up at Springfield City Hall to force a police response.
City officials deny the allegation.
A police report indicates Layton repeatedly failed to comply with requests to turn down the level of bass in the music.
Dozens of Uninsured in Sangamon County Get Help From Health Dept. For Insurance
Sangamon County officials say thousands of county residents are uninsured… but so far, only dozens have approached the county health department about trying to find a policy under the Affordable Care Act.
The health department is now meeting with residents who have signed up for one-on-one appointments to navigate the state and federal insurance exchanges.
Around 15 people have found coverage… all of them under the state’s expanded Medicaid program.
County health director Jim Stone says his staff hasn’t yet had to take the revamped federal healthcare.gov site out for a spin… but he expects that will happen soon, and he hopes the site truly works better than it did in the weeks after it was first launched in October.
BREAKING: Acting Springfield Corporation Counsel Resigns
For the second time in six months, the person serving as the top lawyer for the City of Springfield has resigned.
The city issued a one-sentence statement saying Acting Corporation Counsel John Mehlick has submitted his resignation, effective December 14th. No reason was given for Mehlick's decision to step down. Mayoral spokesman Nathan Mihelich says he was in the meeting when Mehlick informed Mayor Mike Houston of his intention to resign, but Mihelich says Mehlick did not offer any specific reason for the decision.
Mehlick was appointed by Mayor Mike Houston to replace Mark Cullen, who resigned last summer following revelations about his role in the police department file shredding scandal. Mehlick is a retired judge.
Stay with 970 WMAY for updates on this developing story.
Lawmaker: Pension Deal Turns Judges Into ''New Aristocracy''
An area lawmaker is critical of the fact that judges were left out of the pension reform deal that reduced benefits for most other public sector workers in the state.
Republican Bill Mitchell says judges get a much larger pension than the average teacher or state worker… but they will continue to receive the compounded three-percent cost-of-living increase that is being taken away from the other pension systems.
He says the bill turns judges into a “new aristocracy” and "super-citizens" who can't be touched by the same rules that affect other public employees. Some opponents of the pension bill believe judges were specifically excluded to improve the chances that the bill won't be struck down by the courts as unconstitutional.
Aldermen Fire Back At Mayor Over Criticism Of Cahnman
Two Springfield aldermen say the Houston administration’s handling of the Calvin Christian settlement makes it look like the mayor is guilty of… something.
Both Sam Cahnman and Joe McMenamin made similar statements (live on 970 WMAY's "Bishop On Air") in response to the contention from top city officials that Cahnman should recuse himself from discussions of the settlement in the Christian case because of a potential conflict of interest.
Cahnman has represented Christian in several traffic cases, but he says the administration’s attack on him smacks of an attempt to cover up its own issues.
More People Turning To County Health Department For Affordable Care Act Help
Sangamon County health officials are picking up the pace of appointments to help local residents get signed up for required health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
The health department has scheduled dozens of appointments to assist people in navigating the online signup. But county health director Jim Stone says so far, all of those people have wound up going through the state’s expanded Medicaid program… not the troubled federal website, so he still doesn’t know if the nagging problems with healthcare.gov have really been fixed.
Stone says a full contingent of staff is on standby to help people sign up for coverage before a December 23rd deadline. [To schedule an appointment, call the Sangamon County Department of Public Health.]
Illinois Keeps Pace With National Average In Disaster Readiness Study
A new study of the state’s readiness for a major disaster finds Illinois is in line with most of the nation in its ability to respond to big emergencies.
The National Health Security Preparedness Index gives the state high marks for its ability to test for and detect potential causes in the event of a widespread event involving food contamination, and also for its plans to distribute and dispense medical supplies on a large scale.
But the state ranks below average for its plans to identify and mobilize medical personnel who may be needed in a crisis, and to provide assistance to special needs populations in a public health emergency. State health officials say they’re working on ways to shore up those deficiencies.
Court Battle Likely Next Step in Pension Reform
The next stop will be a courtroom in the fight over public sector pensions in Illinois.
The General Assembly on Tuesday approved a major pension reform bill that aims to save $160 billion over 30 years by reducing cost-of-living increases and raising the retirement age for many workers.
Unions representing teachers, state workers and others say the legislation is an unconstitutional reduction of the benefits that the state has promised to provide, and say they will sue to have it overturned.
File Shred Settlement Delayed, Alderman Cahnman Accused of Conflict
A new round of fireworks has delayed a vote on the proposed settlement between the City of Springfield and the reporter who is suing over shredded police department internal affairs files.
Attorney Jon Gray Noll, who was hired by the city to represent it in the cases brought by Calvin Christian, says Alderman Sam Cahnman has a conflict of interest and should not be involved in the settlement discussions.
Cahnman is representing Christian in one of the numerous traffic citation cases that is included in a separate federal lawsuit in which Christian accuses the city of harassment.
The new wrinkle led aldermen to delay a planned emergency passage vote on the settlement.
That vote will now take place in two weeks… when it will require fewer votes for approval.
Fire Fighter Contract, Minority Participation Program Pass City Council
In other City Council action, aldermen approved a new three-year contract for Springfield firefighters.
The only “no” vote came from Alderman Joe McMenamin, who voices concerns about the contract’s pay raises and its impact on the city’s pension debt.
The council also lifted a moratorium on boathouse construction at Lake Springfield… and approved a program that will encourage minority students to pursue careers in engineering or other fields related to railroad work.
The city, Sangamon County, and Hanson Professional Services will each contribute $20,000 to that effort.
Tax Breaks For Corporations Stalled in General Assembly
A bill that would have given tax breaks to Archer Daniels Midland and other Illinois corporations, in order to keep some of their jobs in the state, has stalled.
The Senate approved the $88 million package on Tuesday, but the House adjourned without acting on the bill, meaning nothing can happen until the legislature’s spring session.
ADM said in a statement that it is now reviewing its options about where to relocate its global headquarters, currently based in Decatur, and will have an announcement soon.
Powder Scare Turns Out to be Baby Powder
A scare that prompted a lockdown of a downtown Springfield office building has now become a matter for the police.
A portion of the Governor’s Office of Constituent Services, across from the Capitol, was closed down when a powder spilled from an envelope.
The powder was just baby powder and posed no danger, but a note in the same envelope constituted a “legitimate threat,” according to Springfield fire chief Ken Fustin.
Fustin would not elaborate.