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East St. Louis mayor to city manager: 'I will not be circumvented'

East St.  Louis Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

The mayor of East St. Louis says she is being left out of the decision-making process at city hall. She’s also accusing the city manager of violating the policies of the city council.

“I will not be circumvented without letting the citizens know exactly what is going on because I will not and do not want to be held accountable for decisions being made without my input or for situations that are out of my control,” Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks told St. Louis Public Radio ahead of a Sunday afternoon news conference billed as an emergency discussion.

A little over two weeks ago, former mayor Alvin Parks was appointed city manager in a 3 to 2 vote of the city council. Only councilwoman June Hamilton Dean joined Jackson-Hicks in voting against the appointment.

On Thursday, Parks told the city council he would be laying off 17 firefighters and eight police officers later this month. Jackson-Hicks said she should have been able to weigh-in on the decision.

“The problem was not so much with that announcement, because I had spoken a couple weeks earlier indicating that we were going to have layoffs,” said Jackson-Hicks. “However how the city manager has come up with this number and the budget documentation to support it and how it’s going to look for the city has not been submitted to me.”

The city manager has the authority to make hiring decisions independently, but Jackson-Hicks said she and the rest of the city council need to know how that impacts the budget so they can vote on budget amendments.

“In addition to the lack of a budget, there’s a lack of a plan. Where do we go from here? We have not sat down collaboratively to discuss the direction of the city,” said the mayor, adding that she believes she is being left out of conversations.

“I know that he has the support of (the three council members who appointed Parks) and I’m not sure if he’s spoken with them individually or collectively but there are two other council members … and we have a corporate attorney, we have fire and police representatives, and when making major decisions all should be brought to the table,” said Jackson-Hicks.

St. Louis Public Radio contacted City Manager Alvin Parks for comment on the layoffs daily beginning Friday morning. He has not yet responded.

When asked whether the layoffs could result in lawsuits due to breach of contract, as layoffs and furloughs did in 2010, Jackson-Hicks said she’s not sure but is concerned by the possibility.

This is a call for not only council to be accountable but this is a call for citizens to really hold us accountable. - Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks

“I did speak with some of the staff and it’s my understanding that the city manager when he was mayor, along with the former city manager Ms. Hudson, agreed not to lay off any firefighters until 2016,” Jackson-Hicks said.

In addition to wanting to know more about the layoffs, the mayor is upset by the way the city manager announced that the open deputy liquor commissioner position will not be filled.

“Before the council had a vote, before there was any discussion on it, the city manager sent out a letter saying that position would not exist, and also sent it out to the media. This was a direct violation of not only council policy but also council rules,” Jackson-Hicks said.

According to the mayor the city council should have first voted to de-fund the position. The mayor also serves as the liquor commissioner for East St. Louis and would have appointed the deputy.

When asked for her thoughts on Park’s hiring decisions, Jackson-Hicks said she didn’t have a problem as long as those hired did their jobs.

The son of Councilman Roy Mosley Sr. was recently re-appointed director of public works.

“I really don’t want to comment on any particular individual. I just want to say all persons in director positions must be held responsible for the way in which they run their departments,” Jackson-Hicks said, before noting that a recent assessment of the public works department found some problems.

She said the report first needs to be presented to the city council before being made public.

Despite her harsh words for the city manager, Jackson-Hicks said she wants to work with Parks and the rest of the city council.

“I am a team player. I’m not adversarial. Neither do I like being controversial. However when citizens are expressing concerns and they have questions about why certain things are being done, why this amount layoffs, I as mayor need to be able to answer them,” Jackson-Hicks said. “And so this is a call for not only council to be accountable but this is a call for citizens to really hold us accountable.”

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.