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Sauk Village mayor quits, trustees to pick replacement

Updated: November 8, 2012 1:54PM

The Sauk Village Village Board will hold an emergency meeting Thursday night to appoint an acting mayor after the resignation Wednesday night of Mayor Lewis Towers.

Towers spoke Wednesday night to village attorney Burt Odelson, who said Thursday, “The mayor did resign, effective immediately.”

Village trustees will hold an emergency meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Sauk Village Municipal Center, 21801 Torrence Avenue, to appoint an acting mayor.

“One of the trustees” will be appointed acting mayor, to serve until the April 6 election, Odelson said.

As far as a reason for his abrupt resignation, Odelson said, “Mayor Towers told me he was just tired of the fighting and tired of the lawsuits and he had to think of his family first.”

In an email sent to village officials Wednesday night, Towers said while grateful for his time as mayor, “my family and health must come first.”

On Monday, Towers had announced the appointment of a new police chief (former Chief Robert Fox) and village manager (former village manager Henrietta Turner) as well as the hiring of a new legal counsel.

But the police chief and village manager positions were abolished by the village board as of Nov. 1, and questions remained over how they would be paid, if at all.

Odelson’s law firm was originally hired by Towers, who later tried to fire him. The village board intervened, and Odelson remains the Sauk Village attorney.

But Towers said he hired attorney Stepfon R. Smith, of Smith Amundsen LLC, to represent Sauk Village.

In the summer, the village had to buy bottled water for residents because after years of warnings, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency determined that its drinking water was unsafe.

Already facing a budget shortfall, the village had to spend about $1 million on legal fees and equipment for water filtration to make the water safe again, which it is.

Towners has been in a running feud with village trustees — some of whom were members of Towers’ slate when he was elected nearly four years ago.

When Towers originally hired Fox as police chief, the village board attempted to lock Fox out of his own office. A court battle ensued, and Towers won the right to appoint Fox as chief.

By abolishing the office, and placing the fire chief in charge of both the police and fire departments (while giving Fox a financial package to leave), village trustees thought they’d solved that political problem.

Meanwhile, Turner, the village manager, is involved in litigation with Sauk Village over her dismissal.

Odelson said Towers has “gone through five or six legal firms” in his three-plus years as mayor, apparently hoping to find one whose opinions agree with his own.

Village board meetings grew so contentious that Cook County sheriff’s police have been called out to keep the peace.

The Sauk Village clerk had called on the Cook County state’s attorney, Illinois attorney general and U.S. attorney’s office to intervene in the political feud. Towers had said he has also gone to the state’s attorney and Illinois attorney general because “the village board won’t allow me to function as the chief executive.”

Towers, an employee of the Cook County assessor’s office, was recently suspended for taking a property tax exemption to which he was not entitled.

Contributing: Phil Kadner

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