Throughout the debacle swirling around Commissioner Mark Hosty’s home improvement project on Warren, the commissioner has asserted that his position on the village council has earned him no favors with the building department. After the contractor he hired skipped town on him, Hosty said he went to Director of Public Health and Safety Mike Boyle with his hat in his hands and good intentions in his heart.

We believe him – in part.

Clearly, Hosty was hung out to dry by an irresponsible vendor and we wish him luck in his civil claim against the company. What we can’t accept are the indignant claims by Hosty and Boyle that the violations in this case would not have been handled any differently if the petitioner were not an elected official. The pile of evidence against these assertions is contained in the downright sloppy and inexcusably imprecise file Boyle’s office has maintained. This paperwork should be irrefutable, and it isn’t.

After Hosty informed the building department of his dilemma, the conversation should have turned to the higher standard that public officials are rightly held to. That responsibility is on Hosty and this is not the first time he has failed to recognize that he can’t shrug his title when it suits him.

As for code enforcement in Forest Park, Boyle and his staff are in need of serious help.

Administrator’s role is crucial

The council doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to find a replacement for its outgoing village administrator, Mike Sturino. In fact, the first substantive discussion on the subject probably won’t take place until Jan. 12-three days before Sturino turns in his keys to the building.

Forest Park has an antiquated, goofy form of government that finally took a giant step forward in 1997 when the council agreed to hire a village administrator. This person’s job description includes the day-to-day oversight of every department and, in doing so, sets the tone for how local government will conduct itself. Taxpayers can debate the ratio of hits to misses that Sturino has had in almost four years here, but one thing is for sure. The alternative is far, far worse.

Unfortunately, even with a village administrator, the commission form of government gives administrative say-so to whichever elected official is running a particular department. Forest Park’s commissioners divvy up the responsibilities in accordance with that time-honored code we all learned on the playground: the most popular kid gets first pick.

Every day that Forest Park is forced to function without a village administrator is another day that tempts an unqualified commissioner-or mayor-to meddle. Council members and voters should be very skeptical of any effort to dilute the role of a village administrator in this community. Mayor Anthony Calderone holds the reins on this process and has already failed to call a special meeting to get the ball rolling sooner. It is his authority that should be watched most carefully.