Village President Anan Abu-Taleb says a disagreement between him and members of the village board at a meeting last week about his attempted appointment to the Plan Commission is a "distraction that doesn't need to exist."
Abu-Taleb had sidestepped the Citizen Involvement Commission (CIC) in seeking to recommend Oak Park architect Garret Eakin to the village board for appointment to the Plan Commission, which reviews economic development proposals in the village. Potential appointees typically are vetted by the CIC in a process that involves meeting with the CIC board, attending a meeting of the commission for which they are being recommended and meeting with the chair of that commission and its trustee liaison.
The four trustees present at the July 7 meeting of the village board declined to advance a series of expected commission appointments because Eakin had not attended a meeting of the commission or met with the commission's chair and village board liaison.
Abu-Taleb said in an interview Thursday that he advanced Eakin's appointment because the Plan Commission meeting for July was postponed, meaning it would take at least until after Aug. 2 – the date of commission's next meeting – before Eakin could fulfill the usual vetting requirement.
Abu-Taleb said the position has been vacant for some three months, since Plan Commission Chair Linda Bolte resigned her position and commission member David Mann was appointed chair by Abu-Taleb.
Village trustees disagreed with Abu-Taleb on Monday, arguing that appointees to the commissions all follow the same vetting process and Eakin should not be an exception.
Trustee Glenn Brewer said at the Monday board meeting that the Plan Commission appointment should be removed from a list of other appointees who had successfully completed the CIC vetting process and were being recommended to the board by the village president.
Abu-Taleb rejected splitting out Eakin from the list, saying, "It's my appointments and you either approve them or you don't. If you want to table it for the next time, then I'm OK with that."
He said Thursday that Village Attorney Paul Stephanides informed him that under village ordinance that it is OK for the president to recommend a commission candidate to the board even if that person had not completed the CIC vetting process.
Abu-Taleb noted that Eakin had been vetted by the CIC years back before his appointment to the Historic Preservation Commission. Further said Abu-Taleb, Eakin understands architecture and development issues and has lived in Oak Park for years. Eakin also write a monthly architecture criticism column for Wednesday Journal.
"I could understand if he moved into town a year ago and didn't know anything," Abu-Taleb said, suggesting that Eakin could have fulfilled the requirement for attending a meeting of the commission by watching a video of one of the past meetings on the village's website.
Abu-Taleb said Thursday he was not aware that Trustee Brewer planned to put the brakes on Eakin's appointment at the meeting.
"He could have called me up and said, 'I have a problem with it,'" Abu-Taleb said.
Brewer said after the meeting that he objected to the appointment not because he had an issue with Eakin but because he was made aware of the vetting situation by CIC Chairman Jim Kelly.
Abu-Taleb said the Plan Commission is among the most important bodies overseeing development in the community and should not be hindered in its work because of a delayed appointment. Two major development projects in the downtown area – the Colt project and Harlem and South – will head to the Plan Commission for review shortly.
"This is not what the community wants us to be bogged down with," Abu-Taleb said.
He said he still is uncertain whether the slate of seven candidates to the various commissions will advance at the next village board meeting.
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