STERLING – Sterling Mayor Skip Lee said that if he were in Alderman Barry Cox’s situation, he would leave the City Council.
Cox, a 23-year member of the council, is believed to have moved outside city limits last year.
In an interview, the mayor said the city is researching residency law and received information from the state attorney general’s office.
“It’s not that I’m going after Barry,” Lee said. “If Barry votes and he’s not legally a member of the council, that could potentially nullify the vote. If I were clearly living out of town, I would resign.”
Asked this week about Lee’s comments, Cox said, “Good for Skip,” and then hung up the phone.
For at least 7 months, a large dumpster has taken up a good portion of the Coxes’ driveway at 1203 E. 20th St. The split-level house is mostly empty.
Cox has another house at 24269 Hillcrest Drive, 5 miles northwest of Sterling. The Coxes have owned it since 2010.
In September, a Sauk Valley Media reporter visited the Hillcrest house, which overlooks a small lake. Neighbors down the street said that’s where Cox lived. And his wife, Julie, who was tending the yard, said he lived there, adding they would be moving and that they still had a bed at the house on 20th Street.
In an interview at the time, Cox said he complied with the requirement that an alderman maintain a residence in his ward. Cox’s voter registration and driver’s license are tied to the city address, he said.
Asked where he hung his hat at night, Cox said, “It’s none of your damn business where I sleep.”
Lee said hardly anyone has approached him about Cox’s residency. He said Cox’s perspective is valuable on the council, because he is the voice for those disenchanted with city government. Still, he said, the city has a duty to look into the situation, adding that he believes Cox lives outside city limits.
“Were he to run next year, I believe someone would challenge his residency,” the mayor said. “I haven’t heard of anyone who would, but he is vulnerable.”
In September, Cox said he wouldn’t pinpoint a time frame for leaving the council, but expected at the time to finish moving within 60 days.
“When I move out of the house and put a for-sale sign in the front yard, I’m really close to resigning from the council,” he said.
No sign is on the property.