Addendum at the bottom added June 18, 2019
Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Apparently blindsiding Village Trustees and staff in Park Forest, Village Manager Tom Mick has submitted his resignation to Mayor Jonathan Vanderbilt, Trustee Theresa Settles and sources at Village Hall have confirmed. Trustee Settles said she spoke with Mayor Vanderbilt last week over the phone and Manager Tom Mick on Saturday, also over the phone.
Manager Mick did not return an email seeking comment. Mayor Vanderbilt did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Mr. Mick has served as Village Manager for 13 years. He reportedly told department heads this morning that his relationship with the new mayor, who has only been in office a little over 40 days, has become “fractured.” As such, Mr. Mick does not believe this is in the best interest of the citizens of Park Forest, sources said.
Mayor Vanderbilt and Manager Mick apparently had disagreements on policy changes should happen in Park Forest, with Mr. Vanderbilt insisting on selling Park Forest’s water system, selling the Aqua Center, Freedom Hall, the Tennis and Health Club, and the Park Forest Library building — all without any board involvement at all, sources said.
During the recent budget sessions, which began the night after the mayor and the new board members were sworn in, Mr. Vanderbilt did not insist on such directives. Finance Director Mark Pries told eNews Park Forest after the budget talks concluded that the board made no changes to the proposed draft budget, aside from catching a few typos. Instead, the mayor and the rest of the board asked questions and, from Mr. Pries’ perspective, the budget sessions were informative.
So the proposed budget, which the board will vote on before the end of the month, contains none of the changes or items Mr. Vanderbilt insisted on with Mr. Mick.
Any of these proposals would involve staff time, money to investigate and vet, plus attorney fees, which would add to a future tax levy. That’s not saying they are impossible, but they are far from simple matters.
Mr. Mick also has been the victim of what amounts to a smear campaign spearheaded by a volunteer commissioner appointed by former Mayor John Ostenburg, Joshua Justin Travis. Mr. Travis also served as Mayor Vanderbilt’s Communications Director during Mr. Vanderbilt’s mayoral campaign.
Mr. Vanderbilt reappointed Mr. Travis to the Youth Commission the night he was sworn in as mayor.
Mr. Travis coined the hashtag #tommickneedstoresign in May after Mayor Vanderbilt had been sworn in. Mayor Vanderbilt did or said nothing online to deter Mr. Travis from repeatedly publicly chastising Manager Mick for Mr. Travis’ onslaught.
Trustee Theresa Settles said she was disappointed with the way Mayor Vanderbilt has dealt with Mr. Mick’s pending resignation, telling eNews Park Forest, “Last week I was called by Jonathan and [he] said that Tom was going to be resigning and it was a mutual thing which was between him and Tom. I talked to Tom, I believe it was on Saturday, and he confirmed.”
“But, nothing has been brought to the [Village] Board,” Trustee Settles continued. Trustee Settles said she “believed” there would be an Executive Session after Monday’s board meeting, “I believe it’s possibly pertaining to that but I don’t know.
“There’s a lot of things circulating throughout the community that I think should have never been that way and I feel that the board should have been notified of all this before and not by telephone.
“I’m rather upset about the whole thing. It happened very quickly. There was nothing that was brought to the board that indicated that there was a problem going on.
“I personally knew there was going to be some transition but I didn’t feel like I was aware of anything that drastically, getting to the point where it’s at,” Trustee Settles said.
The trustee stressed that she had seen nothing in writing.
“I was just told by Mayor Vanderbilt and confirmed by Manager Mick,” Trustee Settles said.
She said many residents have been calling her and are very upset, “and duly so,” she said. “I feel that this was not handled appropriately. I do not like the way this whole thing was handled.”
Trustee Settles said she was disturbed by tone of the comments on Facebook.
“We keep things cordial out in the public,” she said, “and in private are able to talk more and we stand together as a team. But I feel like that’s not occurring right now.”
Trustee Settles said she is not comfortable addressing residents about personnel matters because she doesn’t know “how it got out there, who has said it, what all the dialog is. All I can say is I got word via phone from Mayor Vanderbilt and talked with Tom via phone that this was something that they both agreed to, but I still feel it shouldn’t have gotten to this point and should have been brought to the board before it got to this point.
“Because this is not an issue that just affects Jonathan,” Trustee Settles stressed. “It affects the board. We are a board and we all have a say-so into this matter. Manager Mick does not work for Mayor Vanderbilt alone. He works to the Board of Trustees as well.
Monday’s agenda shows an Executive Session at the end, followed by a return to open session where the board will consider, “Approval of a Separation and Release Agreement.”
Sources tell eNews Park Forest this “Separation and Release Agreement” will be the board accepting Village Manager Tom Mick’s resignation, an agreement no board member has yet seen, except for the mayor.
“We’ll see what happens tonight,” Trustee Settles said.
Addendum added June 18, 2019
Mayor Vanderbilt said in a phone call after this story was published that it was false that he had discussed selling the water plant, the Library, the Aqua Center, Freedom Hall, and the Tennis and Health Club. “As I’ve always said,” he said, he wants to do studies about selling water, for example.
I suggested that, perhaps, he told different people different things. Told him people talk to each other in Park Forest. And, I would add, I am a person in Park Forest people sometimes talk to.
Told him I would add his denial to the story. This is here as an addendum to the original story, not a correction.
eNews Park Forest stands by its reporting.