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May 09, 2012 | 08:06 AMAlderman Terry O'Neill said his final goodbye to city council members at the Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday.
In a move that left fellow council members speechless, O'Neill announced he would resign effective Tuesday. He said he would provide his reasons in writing to the city clerk that same day.
In the letter he submitted to City Clerk Mike Hawes the next day, O'Neill claims that City Council members and citizens are being intimidated into supporting the objectives of "those who control the city." Click here to read O'Neill's letter of resignation
"Those who control the city are pleasant on the outside while they control with a pervasive force concealed by their pleasant exteriors," O'Neill's letter begins. "Opposition to them within this city is gone," he wrote. "When city officials are about to be caught, they divert attention and shift responsibility and blame to others. When they are caught, the legal system drops, dismisses or fails to prosecute those cases."
O'Neill cites a recent lawsuit the city lost in Walworth County Circuit Court involving Peller Investments, an Illinois firm that owns land along the north extension of Edwards Boulevard.
"There is the silent Peller litigation, in which the courts have twice ruled in favor of Peller over the actions of our nonelected city officials, but those city officials have protected themselves by transferring responsibility for their actions to the City Council, enabling their actions and proceedings to remain concealed by prolonging the Peller litigation for an indefinite period," O'Neill's letter charges.
According to court documents, Peller accused the city of engaging in a special assessment that was disproportionate, nonuniform and excessive. Walworth County Circuit Court Judge James Carlson agreed with Peller. Originally assessed at $521,533, Peller's assessment was cut to $277,273 by the court.
In addition, the city was charged with paying $2,024.84 in court costs and expenses.
During Monday's meeting, O'Neill pointedly asked whether funds from the Tax Incremental Financing Distrtict would be used to pay the court costs. City Administrator Dennis Jordan said no money from the TIF will be used for that purpose.
"I find this action as well as many other past and current actions of those running this city morally inexcusable. Furthermore, the required silence for attorney client relationships, closed session meetings and the open meeting law restrictions on these issues have made this job unbearable for me," O'Neill wrote in his letter.
In a phone call Tuesday morning, O'Neill said he would have no further comment.
"I feel that any comment I would make about my resignation would not benefit the city," O'Neill said. "I have decided to decline to make a public comment about my resignation at this time."
O'Neill took office as Fourth District alderman after the April 2011 elections, in which he defeated incumbent Don Tolar 138-122. Tolar had been on the council for six years.
It was O'Neill's second try for office. He lost in 2010 to Fourth District incumbent Alderman Frank Marsala. Marsala did not run for re-election this year.
O'Neill told the Regional News after the 2011 election that he didn't expect to win.
"I have no groups supporting me," O'Neill told the Regional News. "It's been awhile since a longtime incumbent has been defeated."
O'Neill spent several years regularly observing City Council meetings and was outspoken as a citizen about the city's finances and spending.
He was the same while on the council. Shortly before taking office, O'Neill said he would make sure the council members "follow the law" and "spend less."
"Now, the city management is leading the City Council," O'Neill had said. "I would like for the City Council to control (the city) rather than the city management."
Along with the city's finances, O'Neill also had issues with the Tax Incremental Financing District, which he supported closing at the end of this year.
"We have to look at the benefits and disadvantages of closing the TIF," O'Neill said in 2011. "It will have a major impact because there are many unknowns."
He promised he would justify his votes to the public.