MARION - The Monte Blue era as city commissioner for Marion was as brief as it gets. On the day (Thursday) he was sworn in to office, Blue learned that he does not live within the city limits, thus making him ineligible to serve the city.
"He had to resign and he's embarrassed about it," said Mayor Anthony Rinella. "It's just a very sad deal because he really wanted to serve."
Rinella said Blue resides at 2801 S. Market Street and that part of his property is actually within the city limits, but not his house.
Rinella said the error was discovered when Blue's son, Chris, approached the codes department about a building permit.
Blue has inadvertantly been voting illegally in city elections. He will now have to petition the city for annexation if he wishes to be eligible to participate in the April 2019 city election.
The mayor said former councilman, Doug Patton, will be Blue's replacement. He was one of the finalists for the job last week.
Patton, who served on the council from 2011 through 2015, said he was surprised to learn Blue would have to step down.
"Certainly unexpected," he said. "I hate it for Monte because he's a great guy and I hate it for the city because it indicates the position wasn't properly vetted. He (Blue) slipped through the cracks. But I will add that the matter was handled correctly by all when the error was discovered."
Patton said he felt he was the best candidate for the job from the start.
"I'm sure Monte felt the same way. I would like to think my experience on the council matters. When I was there before, we balanced the budget all four years. I'm really looking forward to serving again."
The council will meet on Monday.
"Our first order of business at Monday's city council meeting will be to accept Monte's resignation," Rinella said. "Our next order of business will be to swear in Doug. I'm just glad we found this out now instead of later."
Blue was unavailable for comment Friday. Rinella said he had a pre-planned cruise and had already left town.
However, Blue sent the following letter to the Marion Republican late Friday afternoon.
Dear City of Marion residents, employees, and community members,
On February 9, 2018 I was sworn in as City Commissioner of Marion Illinois. I was proud of this role, and looked forward to working with this town, and the community members that I love so much. I have devoted my life to this town, working with almost every member of our community at one point or another, and was looking forward to working with you all again. Through the good times and the bad times, my friends in Marion have bee there for me, and I have tried to be there for every one of you. As I write this letter, just 24 hours after being sworn in as a leader of this community, I am sorry to say that I must resign from the same position.
I built a house on S. Market St. in December of 2010, and I have liver there ever since. I have voted in every city election, have paid city water, have bought four different building permits, and have paid city taxes on a portion of my land since the day I built the house. When we built, the 911 coordinator at the time verified our address, and when we were broken into, the city police department responded. I have coached the Marion baseball team, owned and operated a funeral home in the city, and truly bleed blue and gold. However, yesterday, after being sworn in, my son went to the code enforcer to buy a building permit to start construction on some land he owns next to mine, and he was informed that his land was not technically inside city limits and no permit was required. While looking into this, we then noticed that the front of my house (East), as well as the land to the North, South, and West of my house all inside city limits, but my house is not. The city limits surround my house, but my house is not included, therefore I am not qualified as a City Commissioner.
As I write this, I want to be clear that I do not believe this to be anyone's "fault". Everyone truly believed that I was in the city, and based off of past situations none of us had any reason to think otherwise. I am sure that because of the situation and the land surround me, I could have figured out a way to work around this but that is not what I wanted to happen. I was not inside city limits the day I was sworn in, so no matter what happens in the future, I believed that the right thing to do was to play by the rules, not try alter them by annexation.
I truly believe that I was the right person for this job, and I had every intention of serving my community in the best way I possibly could. Having said that, I also believe that there are really, really good people interested in fill the seat of commissioner, and I know that I am leaving you in good hands. I have full confidence in the five men that joined me at the meeting Monday night, and I look forward to watching one of them serve in my place.
I know a lot of you have questions and I plan on answering every one of them However, I will be out of town on a planned cruise over the next few days, unable to respond as this news breaks. I apologize for the inconvenience, the misunderstanding, and any embarrassment this might have caused. I had only the best intentions at heart when deciding to apply for this seat, and hope that the zoning situation can be looked at so that I can run in future elections. This is my home, this is my city, and you are my friends. A map cannot take the Marion out of me, but out of respect for the city, the other commissioners, and my community members, I have decided not to fight this, and resign as Commissioner of the City of Marion effective today, February 9, 2018.