First reported 8/24/2009 9:45 p.m.
Amid accusations from one council member that this pick is an abuse of the public’s trust, elected officials in Forest Park voted 3-2 Monday night to hire Tim Gillian as the next village administrator.
The decision was made after a final closed-door discussion of about 40 minutes. It ends what has been an almost nine-month search to fill the post vacated by Mike Sturino. Gillian, a lifelong resident of Forest Park and a former village council member himself, outlasted more than 30 applicants for the top administrative job.
Aside from his service as an elected official, Gillian, 55, has no experience in municipal administration. For many years, he ran a large and successful paving company.
In casting their votes, each of the four council members offered some remarks. Mayor Anthony Calderone was mum.
Calderone and Gillian are childhood friends. They served together on the council for 12 years, until 2006 when Gillian didn’t seek re-election. Over the course of three election cycles, Calderone and Gillian supported each other’s candidacy.
Commissioner Mark Hosty, too, served alongside Gillian for eight years and the two have campaigned together in local elections.
Hosty and Commissioner Mike Curry voted with the mayor to give Gillian the nod. Commissioners Marty Tellalian and Rory Hoskins voted not to hire Gillian.
“It was a great experience,” Curry said of the hiring process. “I look forward to Mr. Gillian leading our village.”
Gillian didn’t attend the Aug. 24 council meeting.
After the meeting, Calderone said he wasn’t prepared to comment on the decision other than to say he would prefer such important hires be made with greater agreement. As for voting to hire a political ally, the mayor said he’s not concerned residents might view the decision as self-serving.
“I’m not. The newspaper is going to take that position and a handful of people are going to take that position,” Calderone said. “I think Tim Gillian needs to be given the opportunity to show what he can do for the village of Forest Park.”
Commissioner Marty Tellalian, though, scolded his colleagues for turning village hall into a private club. Tellalian said it would be difficult for taxpayers to measure what has been lost by hiring Gillian over better-qualified applicants. Tellalian ripped Gillian’s tenure on the council, pointing to a budget shortfall during Gillian’s watch over the finance department that resulted in the dismissal of 12 municipal employees.
“He would not get a job with any other village in the state,” Tellalian said of Gillian. “He simply is not qualified.”
Hoskins tempered his criticism that Gillian lacks the credentials others would have brought to the job and pointed to such positives as Gillian’s work with local business groups. Gillian, whom Hoskins described as “a good guy,” would, according to this commissioner, “do a good job” as village administrator.
“However, there were more qualified applicants,” Hoskins said.
From the start of this hiring process in January, council members have sparred repeatedly over how Forest Park’s top administrative post should be filled. It was quickly agreed that the next administrator would get a salary of $80,000 to $100,000 – significantly less than what Sturino was paid. Agreement on pay, however, was the extent of what would come easily.
Council members initially rallied around the idea of hiring someone with engineering or legal expertise. The mayor downplayed the need for a candidate with such specific credentials. During the early stages of the search, Calderone minimized the value of the position, which the village has had since 1997.
“I’m wondering if anyone can tell me what has the village gotten in return and what have the residents gotten in return,” Calderone said in January.
Perhaps the most notable transformation among council members was in Curry. At first challenging the mayor’s stance that the position holds little substance, Curry gradually softened his opinion of what’s needed in a successful administrator. He then began touting common sense as an important trait.
Gillian’s start date wasn’t clear from Monday’s discussion, nor was the matter of whether a compensation package had been negotiated.