STERLING – Mayor Skip Lee said this week that he doesn’t believe Ward 2 Alderman Barry Cox lives within city limits any longer.
Since the 1980s, Cox lived in a split-level house at 1203 E. 20th St. In 2010, he bought a house at 24269 Hillcrest Drive, 5 miles northwest of Sterling.
These days, a big dumpster sits in his driveway on 20th Street and his house appears vacant. Neighbors say Cox, an alderman for 23 years, has moved out of town.
Cox, however, said last month that he complied with the requirement that an alderman maintain a residence in his ward. His voter registration and driver’s license are tied to his city address, he said.
But when asked where he hangs his hat at night, Cox said, “It’s none of your damn business where I sleep.”
The city received a legal opinion recently indicating that situations like Cox’s were legal.
“He is legally entitled to be an alderman,” Lee said in an interview. “I have expressed my concerns with Alderman Cox. I have urged that he, as a man of honor and one who has served the city so long, do the right thing.”
The mayor said he wouldn’t tell Cox what the right thing was.
Asked what he would do, Lee said, “Once I was no longer sleeping in the city, I would have left the council. My personal trait is that when I change something, I move on, but he’s very connected to his ward. If I had been on the council as long as he has, I may have that connection, too.”
Lee said he had received a couple of calls from residents concerned with Cox’s residency.
“There hasn’t been an overwhelming tide of people concerned about it,” Lee said. “Barry is still informed on the issues, and he is doing his homework. He is still doing the work that an alderman does. If he had moved out of the city and was not attending meetings, not participating and not doing his homework, then I would probably lean on him a lot more in terms of leaving. He still takes his aldermanic role very seriously.”
Cox told Sauk Valley Media last month that once he puts a for-sale sign in front of his 20th Street house, he’ll be really close to resigning from the council. Lee said Cox told him that his days on the council were limited.
Lee said he has started the search for Cox’s replacement, looking through voter records of residents in the alderman’s ward. Some residents have made preliminary inquiries about the seat, the mayor said.
He encouraged those interested to let him know, “so once Alderman Cox has resigned, we can quickly move to replace him.”
Cox couldn’t be reached for comment.