Despite spending an hour discussing the matter at the Jan. 25 virtual village board meeting, River Forest officials are still without agreement on how to move forward on the board’s internal diversity, equity and inclusion initiative.

Village Administrator Eric Palm offered a draft statement of purpose, mission and initial goals for the initiative, which was generally accepted by village officials, although reference was made throughout the discussion of a similar document created by trustees Erika Bachner and Katie Brennan.

Although that document was circulated among village officials, Village President Cathy Adduci would not allow discussion of its specifics, because the document was not in the board meeting packet and therefore not considered to be part of the public record.

Officials have been discussing the initiative since September. Although the external component, a partnership with Dominican University in River Forest, is moving forward, the internal component has not seen the same progress despite being the subject of discussion at numerous village board meetings over the past five months.

At previous meetings, officials have debated hiring a consultant to design a comprehensive work plan and creating a resident advisory work group to provide feedback and advice to village officials.

In his Jan. 25 memo to board members accompanying his draft, Palm stressed the importance of hiring a consultant, as he has stated previously.

“It is important to establish where we are today. We want to continue to build a culture in our organization that focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Village Administrator Eric Palm

Bachner, Brennan and Trustee Patty Henek advocated creating the work group first, which Palm agreed should be the first step to allow input from members of that group in selecting the consultant.

Village President Cathy Adduci concurred, saying, “We want the work group to work alongside staff.”

Trustees Tom Cargie and Bob O’Connell expressed support for Palm’s draft document, but Henek said she preferred the goals in the document created by Bachner and Brennan.

Trustee Respicio Vazquez said he thought the goals in the two documents were “similar” and Bachner said she thought the goals “corresponded.”

Henek disagreed with Cargie and O’Connell regarding the village administrator’s role in the process, suggesting that a village trustee lead the discussion.

“This is diving into the inner workings of the village and needs to be led by the administrator,” O’Connell said.

Vazquez said he sees the role of administrator to be a “facilitator,” adding, “It’s not going to work if it’s not a collaborative effort.”

Adduci and Vazquez indicated they thought consensus was within reach.

“I don’t think we’re too far apart,” Adduci said.

“I think we’re close,” Vazquez said. “I think we’re almost there.”

Adduci said she hopes to discuss the matter further at the Feb. 8 village board, incorporating the Jan. 25 meeting comments and making public the document created by Bachner and Brennan.

The discussion will continue without Palm, who has accepted a position as village manager in Hoffman Estates. His last day in River Forest will be Feb. 5.

Assistant village Administrator Lisa Scheiner will serve as interim village administrator until Palm’s replacement has been selected.

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