Lombard still debating how to fill leadership vacancies
Seven months ago, the Lombard village board struck down a rule that put the senior standing trustee in charge whenever the village president was temporarily unavailable or unable to lead a meeting.
After an election resulting in a new village president and three new trustees, it appears the board wants to bring that rule back.
But just as it did after the death of longtime Village President William J. "Bill" Mueller, the issue of leadership once again is bringing out political differences.
Newly elected trustees Dan Whittington and Reid Foltyniewicz said they were uncomfortable with a proposal to vote on a president pro tem shortly after every election, saying that choice would be difficult for new trustees without relying on political leanings.
"We don't have a lot of time to make an informed decision. It's got to be political, which is unfortunate," Foltyniewicz said.
Leaving the position to the senior trustee keeps power decisions in voters' hands, he said.
"To me, that just makes it easy," Foltyniewicz said.
New Trustee Mike Fugiel, who was appointed to fill the District 2 seat Keith Giagnorio vacated when he became village president, also said he was on board with letting the senior trustee lead when the president is absent.
The trustees who developed the idea of voting on a president pro tem after each election, Peter Breen and Laura Fitzpatrick, said they are willing to abandon it to follow the will of the new board.
They first proposed the voting method in October, when the board broke more than a month of gridlock after Mueller's death and chose to split the remainder of the president's term between trustees Breen and Bill Ware.
Breen and Fitzpatrick said voting on a president pro tem to fill temporary vacancies would give the board a clear choice in the event a permanent vacancy arises again. When the idea was discussed in January, Fitzpatrick said a vote among trustees would be more fair than relying on seniority alone.
"I've never thought tenure should be the end-all-be-all," she said in January.
But now Fitzpatrick herself is the senior trustee. First elected in 2007, she is the board's longest-serving member because Greg Gron, who first was elected in 2005, was defeated in the April election by Whittington.
Two trustees question Breen and Fitzpatrick's motives in shifting their support to the senior trustee. In a 4-2 vote in favor of reverting to the senior trustee method for temporary leadership, Ware and Foltyniewicz provided the opposition.
"You cannot spend six months going forward one way and then reverse it," Ware said.
Although Foltyniewicz said choosing the senior trustee is the easiest way to keep politics out of the leadership decision, he said the timing just doesn't feel right.
"My biggest problem is Peter Breen and Laura Fitzpatrick said 'No, it shouldn't be the senior trustee because by default it doesn't mean they're the best person for the job,'" Foltyniewicz said. "Now they want to go back when it benefits them."
Fitzpatrick and Breen say they are looking to compromise and accommodate new trustees who may feel unprepared to choose a leader at this point.
"We have so many new trustees. They didn't feel they had the information to select one of their peers," Fitzpatrick said. "They said it would be better if we just pick the senior trustee and it wouldn't be a problem."
Fitzpatrick also said she never questioned the process in place that had Gron serve temporarily as president pro tem while Mueller was hospitalized. She said she only opposed the senior trustee method for determining an acting president to fill a permanent vacancy.
State statute forbids village boards from choosing who would fill a permanent vacancy until such an opening arises.
Trustees voted last week on the idea of reverting back to the senior trustee method because right now, the village has no way of determining who should be president pro tem. The ordinance previously governing that selection was struck in October.
The topic will face another vote at the board's next meeting at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 6.