Public Works Director Curtis Cashman resigned suddenly last Thursday, ending his tenure at the helm of the department after just five months.
“He resigned [Thursday] morning, and his resignation was deemed effective immediately. He is no longer employed by the Village of Forest Park” said Village Administrator Michael Sturino.
Assistant Director Bob Kutak, who headed the department on an interim basis for about 18 months before Cashman was hired, will now temporarily return to the department’s top spot.
Patrick Doolin, the village’s Commissioner of Streets and Public Improvements and one of the two commissioners who oversees the Public Works Department, said that the resignation was due to “personal problems.”
“It was a voluntary resignation on his part based on some information that came to light since his employment here began,” he said. “He was dealing with some problems we didn’t know about which manifested themselves and we took immediate action.”
Doolin said he is unsure whether the village will seek a new director or keep Kutak in the top position.
“As we come into an election year in a municipal government where these employees are appointed by elected officials it’s going to be difficult to identify someone that’s going to accept a position 10 months before the election, when they would have to be reappointed,” he said.
Cashman’s hiring in January was supposed to put an end to the political turmoil that had engulfed the public works department for several months at the time.
Paul Burris, a previous candidate proposed by Doolin and Commissioner Terry Steinbach was voted down 3-2 by the village council in August, with the council majority berating Doolin and Steinbach for passing up a longtime village employee like Kutak in favor of an outsider.
Doolin, in return, accused the majority of undermining the village’s commission form of government, which calls for each commissioner to oversee a village department. Prior to Burris’ rejection, a department head recommended for hiring by the commissioner of that department had never been voted down by the council.
With the future of the department seemingly at a standstill, the village council surprised everyone in January by unanimously approving Cashman’s hiring and shifting Kutak to assistant director.
“Logistically, [Cashman’s resignation creates] a difficult situation because we don’t want to go through the same theater we went through last year…this is disappointing on so many levels,” said Doolin.
Commissioner Tim Gillian, who served as one of Kutak’s strongest advocates during the director position’s previous vacancy, said he thought seeking another new candidate at this point would be overly expensive and time consuming.
“I would strongly encourage Patrick and Terry to just give Bob Kutak the job. There’s only a year left in this administration anyway, and based on how long it took to find someone to replace Bob I don’t know if it could get done in a timely enough fashion,” he said.
Kutak has been employed by the village for about 18 years. He took over as interim public works director in 2004 when the Departments of Streets and Public Improvement and the Department of Public Property were merged to create the Department of Public Works. He had previously served as the director of streets and public improvement.