Gurnee mayor to fill fire chief vacancy from within

Updated 8/4/2017 7:31 PM

Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik has decided not to conduct a candidate search to replace longtime Fire Chief Fred Friedl.

On Monday, Kovarik will appoint John Kavanagh, who served as acting chief since June, to the top job, according to the published board meeting agenda.


Kovarik initially said the village would conduct a search to fill the job. In June, Kavanagh said Kovarik asked him if he would be willing to lead the department while village leaders search for a full-time chief. At the time, Kovarik told the Daily Herald the search for Friedl's replacement had not yet started.

According to Village Administrator Pat Muetz, a search never took place.

"Mayor decided to promote from within rather than conducting external search," Muetz wrote in an email Friday.

Whether Kavanagh's promotion happens Monday depends on the consent of the village board, Muetz said. In June, the board unanimously approved Kavanagh's appointment to be acting chief.

Kovarik did not return calls for comment. Kavanagh was on vacation Friday and could not be reached for comment.

Kovarik has declined to say why she did not reappoint Friedl to the position of fire chief, which he had held since January 1998.

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"I don't have to have a reason," she said in June. "If it was for cause, he would have been terminated and we wouldn't have waited for the reappointment period."

In June, the Daily Herald obtained hundreds of pages of village documents and emails, through a Freedom of Information Act request for material possibly related to Friedl's departure.

The documents included Friedl's resignation letter, which he sent to Muetz on June 1, two days after he met with Kovarik, Muetz and Human Resources Director Christine Palmieri said.

"Given the choices presented before me 'Forced Retirement or Termination', I dutifully submit to 'Forced Retirement,'" Friedl wrote.


Kovarik disputes Friedl's description of the May 30 meeting. She said she and the administrators went to his office about 7:30 a.m. that day and she informed him he was released from duty immediately.

Six days later, Kovarik recommended to the village board that Kavanagh, who was deputy chief at the time, be named acting fire chief.

The documents received by the Daily Herald contained no indication Friedl had been recently disciplined, nor were there outstanding complaints against him.

If his appointment is approved by the village board, Kavanagh will be the seventh fire chief in the department's history, which dates to 1930, according to the village's website.

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