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By Anna Lothson
The Georgia-based search firm, hired for about $20,000 to conduct the village manager search, has landed another contract with Oak Park.
Slavin Management Consultants was selected last May to launch a nationwide search for the next village manager, which led to the hiring of Village Manager Cara Pavlicek, who was serving as interim. Now Slavin is tasked with finding Oak Park's next village attorney. Simone Boutet has been the acting attorney since Ray Heise retired on June 30, 2011.
Slavin's contract, unanimously approved by the village board Monday, will pay the consulting group an amount up to $18,000. Although this amount is within the spending authorization of Pavlicek, Trustee Adam Salzman pulled the item from the consent agenda prior to the meeting to voice his concerns about hiring an out-of-state firm for this particular position.
Salzman, an attorney himself, said he's concerned about using a firm outside of Illinois may recruit attorneys who aren't familiar with the legal system in suburban Cook Country, which he noted has its share of quirks.
President David Pope called out the other attorneys on the board, trustees Bob Tucker and Glenn Brewer, for their perspectives. Tucker said Salzman's comments were had validity, but he didn't think it would cause issues in the recruiting process. Plus, he said, Slavin already knows the village well because of its work through the extensive village manager process.
Brewer didn't object to hiring the Georgia search firm; he's more concerned about identifying qualities for the next village attorney. He also said Slavin presents quality work for reasonable prices.
Despite Salzman's initial concerns, he ultimately joined his colleagues in supporting the contract.
Pavlicek explained to the board that because Slavin was initially chosen after a widespread search, she didn't feel it necessary to go through the same process again.
A request for proposals was issued Jan. 16, and three firms who had previously submitted "competitive proposals" to the village for other executive-level searches inquired. The RFP was for specific assistance with the development of a recruitment brochure, recruitment of prospective candidates and background screening assistance for the candidates.
The other firms that inquired were Chicago-based David Gomez & Associates, who gave a price of roughly $20,000 plus candidate travel, and Deerfield-based Voorhees Associates, who gave a price similar to Slavin.
In Pavlicek's memo to the board, she highlighted Slavin's knowledge of the village as another perk for being chosen. Slavin, which provided the lowest cost, will not take part in the interview portion of the process.
"[Slavin] was positively received and his current community knowledge and understanding of the village and board's professional expectations, in my opinion, uniquely qualifies him with the ability to assist the village manager with an efficient recruitment process for a new village attorney," wrote Pavlicek, who noted in a separate phone interview Monday that the village has used an in-house attorney for decades. Although some municipalities don't have a personal legal department, the volume of work in Oak Park makes an in-house team necessary, Pavlicek said. The attorney needs to be familiar with items that pertain strictly to Oak Park's code. The village hires other firms occasionally for additional legal work beyond the caseload of the in-house team.
Currently, the only attorney employed by the village is Boutet, and Pavlicek said code allows for a village attorney and two assistant village attorneys. No assistant spots have been filled since Boutet stepped into the acting role.
According to the RFP provided to candidates, the recruitment brochure is to be issued by March 1, and recommended candidates should be identified in April. A candidate is expected to be chosen by May.