Tom Simonian is Geneva's new 5th Ward alderman, having been appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council Monday night, in a 7-2 vote.
He fills a vacancy left by the death Ralph Dantino. The late alderman was the only person who filed for the April ballot, but died in February, weeks after the deadline for filing for the ballot or as a write-in candidate.
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"We have always had, I think, a very strong and positive relationship," Mayor Kevin Burns said, "in that we can disagree and still focus on what is important, which is 'what is best for the community?'"
First Ward Alderman Mike Bruno and 3rd Ward Alderman Dean Kilburg voted against the appointment.
Both said they meant no disrespect to Simonian; they just did not like the process by which he was selected.
Bruno said there was a lack of transparency, to which 5th Ward Alderman Craig Maladra took exception. Mayor Kevin Burns had Maladra and 3rd Ward Alderman Dawn Vogelsberg interview all applicants and narrow the choice to four because the mayor was involved in a contested election. The process was announced publicly, and no aldermen questioned it at the time. "It was a process chosen specifically to be transparent," Maladra said. "There was no secrecy at all."
But the city did not publicize who was applying for the job. The four finalists' names were made public on Patch.com when a blogger obtained them through a Freedom of Information Act request. The other candidates were August Fesi Jr., Jerry Cass and Robert Swanson.
Bruno said there was no information in the city council's packet. "We're to vote on something, but I don't even know how many candidates applied. I haven't seen any of the other resumes. I thought if we are voting on something that we would have something to say 'Well, this is the best decision.'
"If we can't see more than the one appointment, we really can't vote on anything. We're simply (then) saying 'it's the mayor's choice,'" Bruno said. Simonian's nameplate was affixed to the dais before the meeting began.
State law gives mayors the power to appoint replacement aldermen, "with the advice and consent" of the city council. Had the council rejected the mayor's choice, he would have had 30 days to nominate a second choice. If that choice had been rejected, the mayor could then appoint one of his choices as a temporary replacement.
"I look forward to working with each and everyone of you and challenging each and every one of you," Simonian said. He has lived in Geneva for 15 years, and has volunteered with the Geneva Community Chest. He is chief executive officer of Array Enterprises LLC, and owns a dry-cleaning franchise in Darien.
Burns told him that those in political office have to have a thick skin. "You got a taste of it already," Burns said.