An effort by two village trustees to prevent the reappointment of a member of the River Forest Economic Development Commission failed at the village board's June 12 meeting.
Trustees Carmela Corsini and Mike Gibbs alleged Collete English Dixon used inappropriate language toward a sitting board member while in the audience during a previous board meeting and argued that behavior should disqualify her from confirmation. The seven-member EDC, created in 2013, advises the village board on economic development opportunities, identifies underutilized properties and works to promote business in the village. English Dixon was reappointed to a four-year term.
Corsini moved to amend a slate of reappointments to several village commissions, including the EDC, and requested English Dixon's name be removed. The board eventually agreed and, after some discussion, approved the reappointment in a separate 4-2 vote, with Gibbs and Corsini dissenting.
"The idea that a sitting committee member would sit at our village board meeting and use vulgar language in reference to one of the sitting trustees while that trustee is speaking — no apology was generated, no explanation was generated," Gibbs said. "She's not deserving to be in this spot as far as I'm concerned."
"If you're gonna sit in the audience and verbally, you know, talk about people at the board table in a manner that's unbecoming and unprofessional," Corsini added. "I just thought that was not right."
Other board members focused on English Dixon's expertise.
"I remember the meeting but I don't remember her comment so I can't speak to that," Trustee Susan Conti said. "…I do know her to be highly qualified and committed to this village and to that committee. I think we're very fortunate to have her on board."
"It would be the loss of our residents if we were to lose her" Trustee Thomas Cargie said, adding elected officials should expect criticism. "…We need people like her."
Cargie later said the EDC was growing into a "potent force."
"I have nothing but the highest regard for Collete," Village President Cathy Adduci said. "She's got enormous experience. She spends her time and energy in trying to help us. I am completely 100 percent behind her."
English Dixon's LinkedIn pages lists her as a managing principal at Libra Investments Group, LLC, a board member at Housing Partnership Equity Trust and the chair of real estate at the Walter E. Heller College School of Business at Roosevelt University.
Gibbs, in a June 14 phone call, reiterated his view that subcommittees and commissions serve the board, offering recommendations the board either accepts or rejects.
"The way I see it," Gibbs said. "Once the board makes their decision, I don't expect the committees to pursue their opinions."
Gibbs was not sure when the meeting was, but did acknowledge the board had just rejected the EDC's recommendation for a possible development at Lake Street and Park Avenue. Gibbs said English Dixon's allegedly inappropriate language — which he did not hear firsthand but was eventually told about by other audience members — was referring to Corsini.
English Dixon emailed a statement to Wednesday Journal on June 16 denying the alleged behavior.
"The last, and possibly only, meeting of the Village Trustees that I have attended was a special meeting called in May 2015, at which time I was part of a presentation by the Economic Development Commission ("EDC") to the Trustees noting the EDC's recommendation for the development of the sites at Lake and Park. There was some lively and somewhat contentious discourse during that meeting and I was not in agreement with the decision that the Trustees reached, but at no time was I disrespectful or "vulgar" in any of my language, directly or indirectly," English Dixon wrote.
The full statement will run as a letter to the editor in the June 21 Wednesday Journal.