Jonathan B. Gilbert announced last week he would step down from his position as River Forest’s attorney, effective April 30, 2008.
In a statement to the board, Gilbert wrote: “In order to maintain and protect my objectivity and independence in the current environment, I am advising you that I will not be seeking re-appointment as Village Attorney or Prosecutor at the end of the current term.”
“I don’t expect to die in this job,” Gilbert said Tuesday in a phone interview. “So at some point you start to think it’s time to move on and get somebody new in here.”
Gilbert, who’s paid hourly for his services and is not full-time, started at the village in September 1996. His term expires at the end of April 2008.
Village Administrator Steve Gutierrez said Gilbert would be missed. “I think Jon has served the village very well over the years,” Gutierrez said.
“I find Jon’s comments odd as there was nothing that would preclude him from exercising his objectivity and independence as long as he simply follows the rules,” said Trustee Stephen Hoke. “I don’t know why he felt he needed to do this.”
“I’m very disappointed,” Village President Frank Paris said. “What makes me feel worse is that things have been contentious at the village board.”
Paris said the news came as “a complete surprise” but that he couldn’t blame Gilbert for quitting because staff and board members have been “under a lot of pressure” thanks to newly elected trustees.
Asked if board contentiousness affected his decision to step down, Gilbert said, “I would think so, in the sense that when I went out on my own with my partners 12 years ago, I took anything and everything that came my way. I’m more selective [now] in what I get involved in.”
Gilbert said that, increasingly, he and the village administrator are “being used as stage props” at village board meetings, with members of the board asking them to take sides or say things to embarrass another member.
“Whatever I’ve accomplished is in the past,” Gilbert said.
Why not step down sooner than the end of April?
“I thought about that,” he said. “I thought it would be less constructive to do it in that fashion.”
Paris said he had not “really thought about how we would replace the attorney,” but said the search might be difficult, as there is “not enough work to demand a staff attorney or attract one for that matter,” but too much work for an attorney with a full-time job.
Gilbert agreed, but said there are sole practitioners like him who could do the job, or certainly major municipal law firms-such as Klein, Thorpe and Jenkins or Ancel Glink-that would take the account.
-Bill Dwyer contributed