Former Oak Park village manager takes on bankrupt city in California

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

Allen J. Parker, an Oak Park village manager for a brief period during the 1990s, has resurfaced as city manager of the bankrupt community of San Bernardino, Calif.

Parker was hired in Oak Park and then forced out during the term of Village President Larry Christmas. A bit offbeat by Oak Park standards – he didn't wear socks, for instance – Parker resigned over a dispute related to his vacation pay and whether he had intentionally misinterpreted his contract terms.

Parker was hired in February by a unanimous vote of the city council in San Bernardino, a town of 200,000 made notable as the third city in California to declare bankruptcy in recent years.

Parker was promoted as an expert in managing cities in financial distress going back to his early career in Compton, CA. which Parker described as having been on the brink of bankruptcy in the 1970s. On his hiring in San Bernardino he said he would work quickly to force city expenditures into line with limited revenues.

There was a kerfuffle at the time of his hiring over news reports that Parker had declared personal bankruptcy twice. Once in 1991, just before he was hired in Oak Park, and again in 2011. In responding to press inquiries about the bankruptcies he said the first instance was related mainly to a divorce while the more recent filing was tied to the broad decline in the real estate market. "I got turned upside down on a house like thousands of others," he told the San Bernardino County Sun.

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Reader Comments

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John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 26th, 2013 1:50 PM

The decision to hire a VM does include the residents. It is voted on by the board who represent -- Us. We select the board so their decisions are our decisions. San Bernardino selected Parker because it needed a Crisis Manager. He has a track record of being able to bring municipalities back to the "black." Oak Park might have weighed his personal ethics differently. My point is that skill frequently outweigh moral values in government and business.


Posted: April 26th, 2013 12:48 PM

JBM-Unfortunately, when it comes to the NBA/Hollywood/etc, I can make that choice with my money. If I don't like Tom Cruise, I can choose not to pay $ for his movies, products endorsed, etc. The public sector affords me zero choice. The money is pried from my wallet via inescapable (unless I move) property taxes. And we're not talking affairs, personal beliefs here. This is Fiscal Management 101. He has shown he cannot manage his own funds...a much smaller scale than his current job. Troubling..

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 25th, 2013 2:37 PM

I believe that a person's private life does not necessarily impede a person's professional skills. Because a village manager does stupid things in his personal life does not mean he brings it to the office. Whether in government of business there are checks and balances to ensure that an employee cannot steal the ship. If Parker was excluded from performing his professional role because of his personal traits, we would have to shut down the NBA, most Hollywood productions, and Wall Street.


Posted: April 25th, 2013 1:23 PM

Another leader that cannot manage his own money is entrusted to manage the taxpayers'. Plenty of folks are upside down but are not walking away and having others foot the bill (via higher rates, depressed land values). It reflects poorly on his money management and planning skills, two necessary traits of any politician. I'm not sure the old "others are doing it, so can I" excuse should fly in the public sector. But I guess there's no place to go but up.

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