The Bartlett village board, after hearing statements from a handful of upset residents, appointed Trustee Michael Airdo as acting village president Tuesday.
Airdo is filling the vacant office left behind by Michael Kelly, the well-liked former village president. Kelly resigned abruptly the morning after a heated board meeting last month where a discussion occurred over a Daily Herald story that showed he was late in paying his property taxes over the past several years.
Airdo will be in the position until May 7, 2013 -- the date Kelly's term would have expired. His appointment was greeted by a mix of boos and applause from the more than 100 people who came to the meeting.
Trustee T.L. Arends was the only person to vote against Airdo's appointment.
At the beginning of the regularly scheduled board meeting she said, to a big round of applause, that Kelly "did a good job" while in office.
"Mike Kelly was the kind of president that we all wanted," she said. "He was a friend to all and never in my knowledge did he refuse to listen to a resident."
Some citizens echoed Arends' statement, saying they thought Kelly was a caring leader who made great improvements in the village.
"He made us feel like we were important," said resident Sally Sanford, who spoke with Kelly during a Coffee with the Mayor event. "It hurts us to know that he was treated this way."
She said the reason so many people showed up Tuesday wasn't to talk about Kelly's taxes but instead about the way he was humiliated by the board at the last meeting.
"We had a good thing going," she said. "Things were getting done ... people were working together. People were interested in politics. And right now I'm not, and it's sad."
Rick Newton of Wayne said he is involved in activities in the Bartlett community and had worked closely with Kelly in the past.
He, like many others, expressed disappointment with the behavior of some of the trustees at the last meeting and applauded Arends for the way she acted, saying to her, "You had the courage to do what was right."
"You've put this man (Kelly) through living hell," he said, addressing the remaining board members. "You did, as a whole, a great injustice."
Mary Higgins, a village resident for 23 years, said she found it embarrassing that Trustee Greg Martin brought up the issue of Kelly's late taxes at the last meeting because he received "two phone calls" from concerned residents. She also noted her dislike for the Daily Herald.
"The Daily Herald is known for covering local teenage sports -- and that's why people look at it -- and it's known for taking matters of public record and embarrassing and humiliating people," she said.
Some people yelled "cowards" after Arends was the only trustee to vote against going into executive session to discuss who would be appointed to acting president. Others cried "Resign!" as the board left the room to make their decision.
Before the meeting, Trustee Frank Napolitano sent a letter to the board stating he would be absent due to a family vacation, but that he hoped the board would pick a trustee only to lead Tuesday's meeting "and wait until a later date to elect a new Village President."
"I would like to postpone this important decision until a meeting where all the Trustees are in attendance, and more importantly, we give more residents a chance for their voice to be heard on this important matter," he wrote.
There was discussion of letting Napolitano "attend" the meeting via video or audio conference, but village ordinance ruled those options out.
After Airdo was sworn in, Arends said she hoped things would improve for the board.
"We hope that we can go on under a much brighter sky than as has been over the last few years," she said.