The River Forest village board continued on its newly civil and purposeful course Monday night for a second straight meeting, working through a deep agenda with mere hints of the acrimony that colored its conduct the past six months. There was no need for President Frank Paris to cast any tie-breaking votes, as trustees voted unanimously on all but one issue.

Paris even lost a vote, with the trustees voting 6-0 to pass amendments to the village building code outlawing the use of any electrical wiring not housed in conduit.

The move followed a two-hour meeting between Hoke and Paris last Friday in which the two agreed to retain dispatch expert Donald R. Zoufal as a consultant to the board on matters related to alleged problems with the West Suburban Consolidated Dispatch Center.

Zoufal, an attorney and Chicago Police deputy superintendent, has deep experience with emergency response planning and operations, and served as the general counsel for the Chicago Police Department. He oversaw operations at the city’s 911 Center until this past August, and is now employed with the State of Illinois.

One trustee, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Paris was forced into the meeting in order to retain some control of the process. It’s become clear to all, the trustee said, that the Westcomm allegations require a formal response.

“He’s realizing this fiasco at Westcomm isn’t going to get any better on its own,” said the trustee. “I think he’s satisfied he’ll be able to be closely involved with the process and assert his influence.”

Susan Conti said that, while she’d vote in favor of Zoufal’s retention, she favored some type of forum between representatives of the three municipalities that utilize Westcomm’s services-River Forest, Oak Park and Elmwood Park-“where we could come up with what the problems are and come up with potential solutions.”

Paris called the move “kind of a first step. We’re not sure what we’re asking for.”

Trustee Russ Nummer said he believed the officials who actually use the system may not be the best people to assess situations in which improper policies have led to problems.

Process vs. personalities

Trustees split 4-2 in their approval of Paris’ appointment of longtime Development Review Board member and corporate attorney Dennis McMahon as chair of the board for a term that expires in April, 2009. He replaces veteran chairman Frank Martin, who served the past eight years.

Trustees Steve Dudek and Russ Nummer voted against the appointment-not, they said, because of concerns over McMahon’s competence, but over the decade-long dominance of the DRB by members of the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the fact that they believe the DRB needs a chairman with expertise in architecture or development.

“It would be worthwhile to discuss what sort of attributes would be desirable to handle the quasi-legal and broader development aspects,” said Dudek.

“It would be better to have someone with more experience and vision in the architectural area.”

Nummer said his vote against McMahon was not a reflection on McMahon personally, but reflected his concern about process. It is, he said, a question of skill sets. “I’ve been championing the issue of process for two years. That’s where we fall down,” he said. “It made sense, what Dudek was talking about. If you have a group of people who are dealing with development issues and new construction, it behooves you to have people who have some skill set in that area, and that would include an architect.”

Hoke, while agreeing with both Dudek and Nummer’s statements, said he accepted that McMahon was going to be approved, and wanted to see him start his position on a positive note.

“I very much respect Trustee Dudek’s opinion, but I very much disagree with it,” Paris said after the vote.

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