The Chicago Executive Airport will hire a search firm to help find a new executive director, the chairman of the airport's board said this week.
The help of specialists is necessary to hire someone with the qualities needed to fill a position at this high level, said Robert A. McKenzie, adding that while there is no timetable for a director he hopes "to move it along quickly."
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"It can take months to find the right candidate," McKenzie said. "If the best candidate presented him or herself to us tomorrow I would be thrilled. In reality this kind of search does take time."
The position opened earlier this year when the board approved a settlement agreement with former manager Dennis Rouleau, according to the meeting minutes. The settlement agreement has not been made public.
Rouleau, who worked for the airport about 24 years, took a leave of absence last summer to undergo a bone marrow stem cell transplant, expecting to come back around the beginning of the year.
His leave caused controversy among members of the board and officials in the two towns that own the airport, Wheeling and Prospect Heights. They disagreed over whether the airport board or the municipalities had the right to negotiate terms with Rouleau and decide whether he would resign.
At the same time, the two municipalities were struggling to reach agreement over who should serve as board chairman. They decided on McKenzie in October, nearly a year after the seat had been vacated.
In December, Wheeling and Prospect Heights amended their intergovernmental agreement to give the airport board the right to hire and fire its executive director. The agreement also settled a dispute over airport revenues, with Wheeling paying Prospect Heights $475,000 in back revenues from 2005 through 2012, and agreeing to split future funds from sales and fuel taxes.
"Since the two municipalities took ownership of the airport there has been a lot of politicking done," said Wheeling Village President Dean Argiris. "There's always been political pressure and playing one town against the other. We appoint the board, and we have to trust they're doing the right thing for the airport and the communities."
Prospect Heights Mayor Nick Helmer said Tuesday that Rouleau's resignation was voluntary.
"I talked to him about five weeks ago, and he said he was recuperating very well," Helmer said. "He doesn't want to retire for life. The airport board is autonomous under our latest intergovernmental agreement, but I have no indication that anyone said 'quit or else.'"
Rouleau did not return a message left on a phone at his home.