River Forest officials will undertake a review of the process by which board, committee and commission appointments are made.
Officials reached consensus on the matter following discussion at the virtual Feb. 22 village board meeting. Resident John Grant raised the issue at the Jan. 25 village board meeting and he and other residents provided additional comments at the Feb. 8 and Feb. 22 meetings. In addition to comments made at the Feb. 22 meeting, comments from 20 additional residents on the issue were submitted.
Village President Cathy Adduci responded to his Jan. 25 comments with a letter, Feb. 1, in which she described how the village board, following her election in 2013, established a process of filling vacancies on commissions and committees where one did not exist before. She explained the “easy, open and transparent” way that was created for village residents to serve on a village commission or committee.
Grant provided specific recommendations, Feb. 8, identifying power sharing/checks and balances and transparency/accountability as guiding principles. He also recommended that the application process have a mechanism for determining possible conflicts of interest and verification that a candidate has interests that line up with the work of the advisory body. Other recommendations addressed the schedule for filling vacancies, defining the mission and makeup of advisory bodies, and outreach. On Feb. 22, he said he wants “to start the conversation” regarding the village’s appointment process and suggested that officials “think outside the box.”
“We’re all interested in improving the process,” Adduci said in suggesting that a resident committee be formed.
Trustee Patty Henek, who is challenging Adduci for village president in the April 6 election, said she disagreed with Adduci’s comments about transparency in her letter to Grant, citing complaints she’s received from residents. She referred to the process as “broken” and cited how members of the Deer Management Committee were chosen last year.
“I’m pleased we’re starting the conversation,” she said. “I strongly recommend reviewing the process.”
Discussion became heated briefly when Trustee Tom Cargie, chair of the deer committee, challenged her comments about how members were chosen.
Adduci defended her actions, citing the municipal code as giving the village president authority to suggest commission or committee members and noting that trustees have the opportunity to vote on her recommendations.
“Nothing’s purposely broken,” she said. “I think we have to work as a board. I want to hear all voices. If we can improve the process, we will.”
Trustees Bob O’Connell and Respicio Vazquez thanked Grant for bringing the matter to their attention but suggested he identify sources he cited in his previous comments.
Vazquez and Trustee Katie Brennan supported reviewing the process but Vazquez said he was disturbed by references to “cronyism” and “patronage” that he has heard.
“Let’s look at this objectively,” he added.
Adduci recommended that Lisa Scheiner, acting village administrator, lead the review.
Scheiner said she planned to schedule at least two virtual meetings with residents and encouraged residents to share their opinions on the matter with her.
“We’re always open to suggestions,” she said.
Scheiner estimated she will provide a report to the board within 90 days.
“We’ll do whatever we can,” Adduci said.