SANDWICH – The City of Sandwich has a new mayor after its former mayor resigned in light of charges against him for soliciting sex from a woman he thought was a sex worker.
The City Council voted, 7-0, during a special meeting Monday, May 20 for Ward 1 Alderman Rich Robinson to be the appointed mayor until April 2021. All aldermen were present at the meeting but Robinson abstained from the vote.
When asked if he was ready for the challenge by city aldermen, Robinson said he was after giving the decision a lot of thought.
"Lots of headaches and thoughts this week, that's for sure," Robinson said. "But I'm willing to do it."
Sandwich City Attorney Jessica Harrill said during the meeting there has been some discussion about the mayor's salary and concern about 40 work hours per week being required of the mayor. At the time the ordinance was passed to raise the mayor's salary, she said, the mayor at the time was taking more than a part-time mayoral role.
"Just to be clear, because I know there has been a little confusion, nowhere in the ordinance, nowhere in the code does it actually require for anybody to work 40 hours per week," Harrill said during the Monday, May 20 meeting. "It just says that it appears that the mayor's position is a full-time job and has the potential to be a 40 hour per week commitment."
Robinson said if an alderman is appointed as mayor, they can have the ability to vote as alderman but will not have tie-breaking vote abilities on top of that as appointed mayor. If aldermen vote, 4-4, on a motion, for example, it essentially dies, he said.
Robinson said said that will be the case for him unless he decides to resign as alderman.
Although Robinson is eligible for retirement, he said, he plans on still working full-time as a DeKalb County Sheriff's Office deputy. Excluding after-hours work, he said, he will work in a full mayor capacity whenever he has days off from the sheriff's office.
Robinson, who ran for mayor 10 years ago but lost then, said the experience of eventually being appointed as mayor has been a little overwhelming.
"I feel good that the council has faith and trust in me to take on this endeavor," Robinson said.
The appointment comes after former Mayor Richard A. "Rick" Olson, 66, resigned May 13, days after police announced he was charged with soliciting sex acts from a woman he thought was a sex worker.
City Clerk Denise Ii read Olson's resignation letter at the May 13 meeting of the Sandwich City Council. In the letter, Olson wrote that he was resigning with deep regret. He apologized for the shame he brought to the community and said he hoped that the city would continue to prosper.
"My hope and prayer are that, by my resignation, I will spare any additional dishonor to that office," Olson, who did not attend the meeting, wrote, adding, "My goal now will be to seek the forgiveness of my family and move forward to re-instill the trust that I alone have broken."
Olson was Sandwich's police chief before becoming mayor and was with the department for 16 years. He was elected mayor in 2013 and was in his second term, which expires in 2021.
The mayor's resignation was the most immediate fallout from a sting operation conducted by the La Salle County Sheriff's office that resulted in charges against nine men, including three with high-profile positions. Also charged with soliciting a sexual act was James G. Schaefer, 53, of Peru, the vice president of operations and physician services at Illinois Valley Community Hospital in Peru. A third, Roger C. Bolin, 65, of Hennepin, is an attorney and Putnam County public defender.
The men's first court appearance is set for May 31 in LaSalle County. Solicitation of a sexual act is punishable by probation or up to a year in jail, and a maximum fine of $2,500.