The exit date for the village’s top administrative post looms, and elected officials are nowhere near ready to hire another day-to-day manager for the municipality. How quickly the vacancy that will be left by Mike Sturino on Jan. 15 should be filled may also be a subject for debate.
“If I were the only person voting on this, I would make it a lot quicker than three months,” Commissioner Mark Hosty said of finding Sturino’s replacement.
But according to Hosty and other council members, no serious discussions about the hiring process to name a new village administrator have taken place. It’s also unclear whether an interim administrator might be used while the council conducts its search.
Sturino resigned Dec. 10 so that he could take a new job working with transportation agencies in Illinois, ending an almost four-year stint with Forest Park. As the village administrator, Sturino has held direct oversight of each department, however, his authority is tempered by the council. Individually, village council members have administrative authority over various functions of local government and do not need the approval of their colleagues before taking action. Collectively, council members are also responsible for setting policy.
With roughly a week before Sturino’s final day, council members voiced a range of opinions on whether the vacancy creates an urgent situation.
Mayor Anthony Calderone said the hiring process will certainly take at least three months and he would prefer to use that time to redefine the position. That likely will translate into fewer responsibilities, which could lead to a cost savings for taxpayers, said Calderone.
“There has not been any joint discussion about doing away with the position,” Calderone said. “I am prepared to share some thoughts on re-evaluating the position.”
Forest Park first hired a village administrator in 1997 and Sturino is the third person to hold the job. Both Sturino and the previous administrator, Matt O’Shea, hold law degrees and commanded arguably greater salaries for that expertise. However, Calderone said he doubts the village has realized any savings on legal expenses as a result. The mayor acknowledged a recent glut of civil and criminal cases involving the municipality, but said further savings still should have been achieved.
“I don’t think that’s entirely responsible for it,” Calderone said of the case load.
Sturino currently pulls a salary of $125,000 and his contract includes ancillary benefits such as $500 a month for vehicle expenses. The mayor said he would prefer to pay the next village administrator no more than $100,000, “maybe even less.”
Hosty, too, said the council can likely hire a new administrator for less than what Sturino is being paid.
Commissioner Rory Hoskins said he’s willing to allow for a lengthier search process so long as the position is filled by the end of the fiscal year in April. He also would prefer that an interim administrator be hired.
“There’s different opinions,” Hoskins said. “Some council members are looking for different things in a village administrator. One concern is cost. There’s probably five different ideas.”
In November 2007 when Sturino’s current multi-year contract was approved, Commissioner Marty Tellalian was the only council member to vote against the deal because of its price tag. At the time, he characterized the salary and benefits package as an “excessive” and “inappropriate” amount of money.
Tellalian said the municipality can function without the benefit of an interim hire.
Commissioner Mike Curry sided with Hoskins in wanting an interim administrator, and “swiftly.” For several years, he said, Sturino has worked 40 to 60 hours a week. Someone has to shoulder that burden.
“Are we going to push that work on our department heads, our employees and our elected officials?” Curry asked. “I think we need a clearly defined plan.”