Arlington Heights trustees spar over president pro tem post as faction insists on a woman
For the first time in decades, Arlington Heights trustees publicly sparred over the selection of a president pro tem, turning down Mayor Tom Hayes' recommendation of Trustee Jim Tinaglia in favor of Trustee Robin LaBedz.
On the same night board members were set to discuss the village's ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion initiative, most said elevating a woman to one of the highest positions in village government would go a long way toward advancing those values. But Hayes and others equated the move to a quota and said it was injecting politics into nonpartisan local government.
Ultimately, Hayes and all eight trustees approved Trustee Mary Beth Canty's nomination of LaBedz, who will chair meetings in Hayes' absence and fill in for him at public events.
But it wasn't before a robust debate of more than an hour at a virtual meeting Monday night, bringing to head a festering controversy that started when Hayes began calling board members days before to solicit support for his nomination of Tinaglia.
Hayes told the Daily Herald that he realized by Sunday that he wouldn't have the votes. While he also considered LaBedz and John Scaletta -- the other most senior trustees -- Hayes said he ultimately picked Tinaglia for his "calm demeanor, building and zoning expertise, and reputation within the community."
"I just wholeheartedly disagree with what the majority believes is the message they think they will be sending with the appointment of a woman just for appearances' sake," Hayes told trustees. "I don't believe there's a wrong that needs to be righted by appointing a woman to this position."
Hayes said he believed making an appointment based on gender instead of qualifications was contrary to the recent report of The Kaleidoscope Group diversity consultant that recommended against hiring quotas. He also charged other board members and the local chapter of the League of Women Voters with politicizing the process.
In an attempt to defend his record, Hayes added that he appointed LaBedz to his trustee vacancy when he succeeded Arlene Mulder as mayor in 2013, appointed then-Trustee Carol Blackwood as president pro tem in 2017, and this year appointed women to chair half the 14 village volunteer boards and commissions.
Canty said no one on the board was suggesting someone be recommended for a position just because she is a woman, person of color or other underrepresented group. But at the same time, she said, "diversity doesn't happen by accident."
"It is about giving underrepresented groups a chance when their qualifications are more or less equal to those of a fully represented group, and this particular moment in time with the DEI efforts that we have going on and with the communication that we have received from village staff, from our community, from our constituents, it is a particularly opportune time for us to practice what we preach," Canty said.
Other trustees, including Tom Schwingbeck, Rich Baldino and Nicolle Grasse, said there needs to be additional collaboration, conversation and dialogue with trustees after Hayes forwards a name for appointment.
After Hayes' nomination last week, Tinaglia said at least four trustees called him to say they'd vote only for a woman, and so he withdrew his name from consideration. And while he said he was being a team player by supporting LaBedz, he said the process wasn't how the board should behave.
"The process of how this happened and the rallying behind the scenes, the campaigning and the calling in the National Guard -- which is really what happened here with the League (of Women Voters) -- I think was shameful," Tinaglia said.
In an exchange with Hayes during the meeting, local league President Heidi Graham said the organization hasn't endorsed a candidate for office in its 101-year history. But once elections are over, "we do consider ourselves to be the trustee of democracy," Graham said.
"What better way to express a commitment (to diversity) than to have a woman be one of the top positions in village government," Graham said of the group's support of LaBedz, a member of the League since 1988. "And not just any woman, but a woman who is highly qualified -- arguably the most qualified person on the board."
LaBedz disagreed with the implication that the debate over the mayoral appointment was a political one, or that she politicked or lobbied for the position in any way. But she said she is ready to move on and put the controversy behind her.
"This board always has been able to work together and address any differences we have," LaBedz said. "I expect and am certain even if we have had differences in this instance, I know we will be able to move forward and work together."