Underlying tensions on the River Forest village board flared last week in the wake of the regularly scheduled March 24 village board meeting being cancelled because four majority bloc members reportedly were unable to attend.
Three minority trustees who will be in town Monday were miffed at not being contacted by Village Administrator Steve Gutierrez until after the decision was made to cancel the meeting. On Tuesday they scheduled a make-up board meeting for this Thursday, March 27 at 6:30 p.m.
Contacted Friday at his winter home in Florida, Village President Frank Paris said Friday that he wouldn’t be in town this past Monday and that Trustee Susan Conti was in Italy. Nancy Dillon said Friday that she was leaving for Florida with family and friends. Pat O’Brien said he was returning from taking one of his children back to college and might not be back by Monday evening.
Paris said such cancellations are not out of the norm and in turn criticized the attitude and behavior of the three trustees.
After accusing Wednesday Journal on Friday of conducting public relations for trustees Hoke, Dudek and Nummer, Paris softened his stance a bit Saturday, expressing hope for reconciliation and finding common purpose in the best interests of the village.
The flare-up was tempered Monday after a previously scheduled special meeting, also apparently cancelled, was announced as back on the schedule. A mistaken notice sent via e-mail Thursday afternoon originally indicated the next board meeting would be held April 14. At that meeting, trustees would have been forced to deal with a backlog of items discussed but not acted on at the March 10 board meeting because the agenda had not been posted the legally required 48 hours before the meeting.
After the three minority bloc trustees voiced their disagreement, Administrative Assistant Dawn Marszalek sent an e-mail Monday morning informing the media that the April 7 budget hearing was, in fact, on the schedule. That meeting will be limited to public comment and possible discussion afterward.
Gutierrez said he spoke with Paris on Monday and that the village president was aware of the April 7 meeting. Before Monday’s announcement, Paris said he was open to the possibility of meeting before April 14 if other trustees were willing to change their plans.
“It’s possible an extra meeting could be had if everyone was available, but I’d prefer to wait until the 14th,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate,” Hoke said Friday about waiting until April 14 for a full board meeting, “because we were going to directly address the police committee report, as well as substantively discuss the budget crisis we find ourselves in. This was an opportunity to get to work. Instead, they’re waiting three more weeks.”
Russ Nummer, said that after speaking with Gutierrez he expected a packed agenda for the April 14 board meeting. “It didn’t seem like a prudent thing to do to cancel a meeting and then not schedule a meeting until April 14. We’re going to be there until 3 a.m., or the items won’t be discussed in any depth,” Nummer said.
Dudek, who has locked horns with Paris on numerous occasions, said, “The village is in the middle of a budget crisis, and the village president doesn’t have time to come back from his home in Florida to have a meeting.”
Paris had dismissed those concerns Saturday, saying he expected the public hearing on the budget to go smoothly and the board discussion to be “fairly perfunctory,” whatever the dates scheduled.
“I don’t think it will be very, very busy,” Paris said, “if everybody is intent on getting things done as quickly as I am.”
The three minority bloc trustees weren’t buying it, however. Tuesday morning they took steps to relieve the April 14 meeting of its extra burden and scheduled the Thursday meeting.
“The agenda for the Thursday meeting is the [same as the] agenda from the March 10 meeting,” Nummer said Tuesday morning.