Commissioners appointed to the city of Lake Forest's two advisory commissions could soon be appointed directly by a council member, rather than voted in by a majority—a move that opponents say constitutes a power grab.
Lake Forest's mayor, Kathryn McCullough, brought up the idea of changing the appointment process at the council's Tuesday evening meeting. Her colleagues agreed to discuss the proposal at a future meeting.
That move would turn the clock back to the early years of the city, when each council member selected his or her appointee for a commission.
McCullough did not explain why she wanted to return to the direct appointment process at the meeting where she introduced the topic.
Today individuals interested in filling a spot on either the city's Planning or Parks and Recreation commissions are interviewed, then voted on by the entire council. It's been that way for more than a decade, according to city staffers.
According to Tim Hughes, the longest-standing member of the city's Planning Commission, the council years ago changed the commission appointment process after it became clear that certain members of the council at the time had a "propensity for trying to influence the opinion" of their direct appointee.
"Therein lies the primary reason that they tried to change it," Hughes said.
Concerns about commissioners making decisions based on "lobbying" from the council member who appointed them spurred the switch, he said.
"I prefer the election process myself ... I think it's a more balanced approach," the longtime commissioner said.
The mayor and council members interested in switching to the original method "probably would like to have more influence on some of the planning commissioners," Hughes asserted.
Attempts to reach McCullough for comment on the proposal by phone were unsuccessful.
Another member of the city's Planning Commission also expressed concern about the potential change.
"I would be concerned about that kind of change. It gives the appearance of undue control by individual City Council [members], down to the Planning Commission level," said Terry Anderson, a planning commissioner who . "It's all about the appearance of independence. While individual people appointing individual commissioners may in fact be completedly unbiased, it gives the appearance that there could be collusion."
Tensions have risen recently between some members of the commission and council after the elected body rejected two Planning Commission recommendations.
Recently, the council voted against commission recommendations to allow an and .