Tensions escalated quickly Monday night as village council members rushed through the second half of their meeting once they again suspected each other of making a play for political dominance.
Subtle jabs were traded for bolder punches and suddenly Mayor Anthony Calderone and Commissioner Mike Curry were in an outright shouting match, standing almost toe-to-toe. Their verbal sparring occurred just seconds after Calderone closed the meeting as a stunned public, many not yet out of their seats, looked on.
“I know you don’t want to hear it, but that’s tough,” Calderone said to Curry, challenging the practicing attorney to familiarize himself with local laws on who holds power in Forest Park. “If anybody should know about laws, you should. You’re an attorney for Christ sakes.”
Curry fired back that he doesn’t need the mayor to hold his hand.
“If you want to stand up here and chastise me, make me look bad in public, that’s fine,” Curry said. “That’s your opinion.”
The Feb. 9 meeting began well enough, though an obvious struggle for power has rocked this group in recent weeks. As promised in an interview with the Review published Feb. 4, Curry presented plans for updating the village’s building codes. That discussion stayed on point as elected officials developed a strategy to get more information on their options and what impact any changes might have.
But the process went south over a discussion of a relatively routine ordinance that would regulate how local utility companies use publicly owned property. Commissioner Rory Hoskins, the leading vote getter in the 2007 elections in his first bid for office here, questioned why communication from the utility companies was being directed through several different offices. The process for certain administrative approvals seemed inconsistent, said Hoskins.
Calderone said that any requests directed to the mayor’s office would not be granted without input from the appropriate departments. The village’s attorney, Mike Durkin, said the language was boiler plate material taken from a model developed by the Illinois Municipal League.
Durkin, however, also said he suspected Hoskins was trying to block the mayor from having administrative oversight on such matters. He then held up a photo copy of a front-page story published in last week’s Review on the council’s unwillingness to appoint a Calderone nominee as ethics advisor. That nominee was Durkin, who was out of town during the previous council meeting.
He said it appeared he had missed a political tug-of-war.
Oddly enough, the mayor’s nomination Monday of Forest Park attorney Sharon O’Shea to serve as ethics advisor was met with unanimous approval. There was no discussion.
Hoskins had said he objected to giving Durkin the title because, as an attorney, Durkin would bill the municipality for any consultations.
At one point during the meeting, Commissioner Marty Tellalian attempted to rein in the acrimony that was disrupting the meeting. He encouraged everyone to work together and to heed any reasonable concerns regardless of where they originate. Afterward, Tellalian said he has talked privately with his colleagues, in particular Hoskins, about the dissension that has erupted since former village administrator Mike Sturino’s exit in mid December.
“If you think the mayor is meddling, the way to get him to stop is not by pushing back, but by being open and honest,” Tellalian said of his advice. “Obviously, there’s a big turf war going on.”