Mundelein development director out, but reason a secret
Mundelein's community development director has left his job at village hall, but officials won't say why.
Trustees on Monday approved a separation agreement with Victor Barrera that within two weeks would give him a one-time payment of $28,969.73 before taxes, cover his health insurance payments for three months if he elects Cobra coverage, and pay him for 20 unused vacation days.
When asked about Barrera's exit and whether he left voluntarily or was forced out, trustees referred questions to Village Administrator John Lobaito.
Lobaito wouldn't explain Barrera's departure, either, saying neither Barrera nor Mayor Steve Lentz have signed the deal and citing the confidentiality legally afforded to personnel matters.
The Daily Herald filed a Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of the separation agreement and for copies of emails between trustees or other village officials regarding any matters that led to Barrera's departure. The village released only the agreement late Wednesday.
The separation agreement stipulates that Barrera can't hold the village liable for anything relating to his employment with the village, except for what the law requires that he be allowed to claim such as discrimination. And the village would be allowed to release only basic information about Barrera's employment to potential employers consulting the village as a reference.
Although not as prominent a figure in town as Lobaito or Lentz, Barrera's role in Mundelein was a significant one.
Barrera worked on downtown redevelopment projects, oversaw zoning and annexation proposals, and worked with developers and business owners on incentive packages, among other responsibilities. He also was tasked with luring new businesses to town and retaining those already established in Mundelein.
Those jobs were critical to the village's ongoing downtown improvement effort and village hall's attempts at rebranding Mundelein as a vibrant place to live and work.
"Every annexation and business we attracted had Victor's fingerprints on it," Trustee Ray Semple said. "It's a very important role within the village."
Barrera joined the village staff as a planner in 2003. He was promoted to director of planning and development in 2006 and to community development director in 2014.
His estimated final annual salary was $115,879.
The board approved the separation agreement without opposition, and it was effective retroactively to Jan. 8, Barrera's last day of work, Lobaito said.
Barrera didn't attend the board meeting, and he couldn't be reached for comment this week.
Semple said he expects a search for Barrera's replacement will begin soon. The village said in a release the hiring process is expected to take four to six months.
"We'll continue to move forward," he said.
Trustee Dakotah Norton called community and economic development "one of the most important things that faces our village" and said he hopes officials will find a new director who can do the job even better.
"Any opportunity for change should be seen as an opportunity to grow," Norton said.