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Small town with big battles

City has plenty of contests on ballot

Published: Monday, Dec. 31, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT

MOUNT CARROLL – Rock Falls City Council members will run unopposed for re-election on April 9. The same goes for members of Milledgeville’s village board.

But that’s not the case in Mount Carroll, a hilly Carroll County town, population 1,693.

All three City Council incumbents up for election face challengers, as do the mayor and city clerk. That’s a far cry from 4 years ago, when everyone, except for the mayor, ran unopposed.

Over the last couple of years, the City Council has been divided over a number of issues. Among them, members Bob Sisler and Doris Bork and former member Nina Cooper have pointed to discrepancies in payroll records and questioned a loan to a local economic development group.

In early 2011, Bork and Cooper, then still an alderwoman, went to City Hall and looked at payroll records. The city clerk allowed the inspection.

Mayor Carl Bates, though, wasn’t happy. He announced at a council meeting that he wouldn’t let council members go to City Hall to look at records without his permission. He said he wanted the alderwomen to provide him with a copy of their notes from the day they looked at the documents.

Bates said he would not allow council members to view public records without them giving him a reason first and without him being present.

His directive appeared to contradict the state attorney general, who tells government agencies not to ask people why they want public records.

Tensions have remained high since then.

In the election, Sisler, who became alderman in 2011, is challenging Mayor Bates. The two men faced off in 2009, with Bates winning handily.

In explaining his candidacy, Sisler referred to a recent quote from City Attorney Ron Coplan, who was explaining a loan to the Community Development Corp. for the local Kraft building.

“There is nothing amiss,” Coplan told Sauk Valley Media. “If it’s been a little casual at times, it’s reflective of a small town.”

Sisler said that quote symbolized the city’s approach to its business.

Ward 2’s Bork has drawn two opponents – Joe Grim and Wayne Knight.

Grim, 33, a county animal control officer, said Bork had brought forth “unfounded complaints.” He said her questions about the city’s finances were unjustified.

In Ward 1, Alderman Doug Bergren will run against Jeanne Schnitzler, who has addressed the council five times over the last couple of years, complaining that city water appeared murky.

In Ward 3, Alderman Mike Risko Jr., who has defended the city administration, is facing Percy Vesperman, who expressed concerns about the city’s spending during the February council meeting.

For city clerk, incumbent Julie Cuckler is being challenged by former council member Cooper.

Who's running?

A list of candidates running in Mount Carroll:

Mayor: Carl Bates (i), Bob Sisler

City Council

Ward 1: Doug Bergren (i), Jeanne Schnitzler

Ward 2: Doris Bork (i), Joe Grim, Wayne Knight

Ward 3: Mike Risko Jr. (i), Percy Vesperman

City Clerk: Julie Cuckler (i), Nina Cooper

i – incumbent

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