After a final tweak to the document, the River Forest village board unanimously approved a resolution creating an ad hoc diversity, equity and inclusion advisory group at the Feb. 22 virtual village board meeting.

The advisory group is charged with developing a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative for the village to be presented to the village president and board of trustees. The internal initiative was introduced in September, along with an external component, and discussed at multiple village board meetings until consensus was reached Feb. 8.  

The external component, a partnership with Dominican University in River Forest, is moving forward, following adoption in October. The goal of the mutually-beneficial partnership is to assist the village in becoming a community where there is a commitment to a culture of equity and inclusion and help the university expand its Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation efforts.

“This is cause for celebration,” village President Cathy Adduci said. “I am personally proud.

“There is a lot to do. I know we’re all committed to it. We all must be involved.” 

As was agreed Feb. 8, the size of the group was left open and the resolution will be amended once that number is determined. The group will have two co-chairs, a village trustee and the village administrator. Lisa Scheiner is acting village administrator until the village board replaces Eric Palm, who took a new post outside River Forest this month.

At the suggestion of Trustee Erika Bachner, the wording of the resolution regarding presentation of a report was amended. Bachner suggested the group is charged with submitting an “initial” report at a date to be determined instead of a “final” report by a specific date.

Following discussion, officials agreed that definitions for “diversity,” “equity” and “inclusion” be included in the resolution but decided that the members of the group make that determination.

Assistance with the definitions could be found at Dominican, according to Sheila Radford-Hill, a River Forest resident, who also commended officials for their action. She recently resigned as chief diversity official for Dominican but was influential in creating the partnership between the village and the school.

Concerns raised by Trustee Bob O’Connell regarding hiring and firing implications were allayed by Scheiner, who said hiring and disciplinary matters are confidential, and Greg Smith, village attorney,  who assured that certain documents will not be accessible by the group.

According to the resolution, the charge and mission of the advisory group are “to explore ways to remove barriers that prevent the participation, engagement and an equitable and welcoming environment” for all village residents, business members, visitors and employees. In addition, the group is charged with “building trust amongst all parties through development of the initiative.”

Although no vote was taken, consensus was reached on the application form prospective members will be asked to fill out. At the suggestion of Trustee Patty Henek, a line about availability to attend meetings will be added.

As officials agreed after discussion at previous meetings, the advisory group’s responsibilities will include drafting a request for proposals for a consultant “to conduct an assessment of the village as a municipal organization to provide an equity analysis of its practices, policies, systems and structures to identify potential unintended consequences.”

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