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updated: 1/16/2013 5:58 PM

Lombard trustees split on how to fill future vacancies

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As Lombard's second acting village president in three months steps into temporary leadership, trustees will discuss a proposal some say could prevent gridlock in choosing a successor if another vacancy arises in the village's top office.

Heading into a meeting Thursday night, trustees appear to be splitting along the same lines that divided them as they struggled for more than a month to choose a temporary leader after the death of longtime Village President William M. "Bill" Mueller.

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The proposal would require trustees to vote shortly after each election on a president pro tem to fill in during any temporary absence or illness of the village president.

The vote would not determine who would become acting president during a permanent vacancy because state statute says that choice cannot be made until a vacancy actually arises, village attorney Tom Bayer said.

The thought, however, is that voting on a president pro tem to fill temporary leadership needs will give the board a clear choice if a long-term vacancy does arise.

In the past, the senior standing trustee automatically was named president pro tem for short-term needs, but trustees struck that regulation Oct. 2 when they decided to split the remainder of Mueller's term between trustees Peter Breen and Bill Ware.

Breen and Trustee Laura Fitzpatrick said they worked with state Rep. Mike Fortner, a former West Chicago mayor, to develop the proposed ordinance because his city recently filled two mayoral vacancies without contention. When Fortner stepped down in 2006 to take his state-level position, Mike Kwasman was appointed, and when Kwasman died last spring, Ruben Pineda was appointed acting mayor.

"It was a process that was clean; it was done without acrimony in that municipality," Breen said. "Why wouldn't you want to fix this problem for the future?"

Trustee Zachary Wilson is the third who supports the selection of a president pro tem by trustees after each election, saying "had we done this prior to the death of President Mueller, there wouldn't have been an issue."

Trustees Keith Giagnorio and Greg Gron say they oppose the new way of selecting leadership during vacancies. Ware did not return calls Tuesday and Wednesday.

"I'm an advocate of leaving that for the next board," said Gron, who is facing two opponents in his bid for re-election in District 1. "It's something this board doesn't need to address."

Giagnorio said he would prefer reverting to the old policy and allowing the senior standing trustee to become president pro tem when needed.

"The problem I'm seeing is you're involving a lot more politics than needs to be involved in the process," Giagnorio said.

Fitzpatrick said seniority should not be the most important factor in determining leadership, and choosing the president pro tem every two years when a new board takes office will prevent "the problem of an election looming."

"I've never thought tenure should be the end-all be-all," Fitzpatrick said.

Discussions of the new mode for selecting a president pro tem began at a meeting Jan. 3 and are set to continue at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

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