Mike Boyle, the former village government buildings chief in Forest Park whose sudden resignation in August was cloaked by a confidentiality agreement, is offering new insights about his departure now that a state law is forcing greater transparency onto village hall.
The contract itself – made public under new laws that took effect Jan. 1 – sheds little light on the circumstances leading up to Boyle’s sudden resignation in August, and village officials remain tight-lipped about why they agreed to pay four months salary to a resigning employee. In a recent interview, however, Boyle described a work environment in which he “very clearly” received pressure from Commissioner Mike Curry to resign. Just days before having a frank conversation with the mayor about his job status, Boyle said he received an anonymous note on his car that told him to “watch your back.”
The source of that message – and whether it was a threat or a warning – was never discovered, he said.
“At no time did I say that I wanted to resign,” Boyle said. “I did not want to resign. There’s no way I would have wanted to leave a good job … with no place to go.”
The severance agreement between the municipality and Boyle is a matter of public record thanks to legislation that took effect at the start of 2010. Previously, village officials had refused to disclose the terms of the severance contract and cited exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act that allowed them to withhold those details. The four-page document makes clear that the circumstances of Boyle’s resignation were not to be discussed publicly.
Commissioner Mike Curry holds direct oversight of the Department of Public Health and Safety, for which Boyle was the director.
“The only thing I can really say is there is a confidentiality clause on the agreement,” Curry said. “I can make no comments on anything about the agreement.”
In August, Curry voted to approve the contract and pay Boyle more than $28,000. Boyle was an at-will employee and otherwise had no right to receive that money. Another $2,100 in accumulated vacation pay was also awarded.
At the time of Boyle’s departure, Curry and Mayor Anthony Calderone characterized the decision as that of the employee’s to resign. Calderone said Boyle did not explain his reasons for quitting the job, and Curry refused to comment even on how he learned of Boyle’s decision.
In light of the contract being made public, Curry still would not budge from his position of silence and suggested that other public officials may be in a position to answer questions.
“Maybe someone else will talk about it to you,” Curry said.
Calderone, who also voted in favor of the severance and said he had personally received Boyle’s resignation, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Tim Gillian, the village administrator, was not in office at the time the agreement with Boyle was made. Asked whether he would generally advise the council to pay severance packages to at-will employees, Gillian said every circumstance is unique. Potentially, he said, any former employee could file a discrimination suit against a former employer. Offering a severance package – regardless of fault – is one way for both parties to avoid costly litigation.
“It has to be a thoughtful process by both parties to decide what’s in the best interest of both parties,” Gillian said.
On the day Boyle said he confronted the mayor with concerns that his job was in jeopardy, July 31, developer Robert Marani filed suit against the village and fingered Boyle as the person most responsible for slowing his condominium project at the corner of Circle and Madison.
In late 2008 and early 2009, Boyle’s office discovered that two sitting commissioners, Mark Hosty and Curry, improperly renovated their homes. Both council members were forced to obtain the requisite permits and approvals, but neither faced any sanctions and the work was allowed to stand.
According to Boyle, the compensation package was not solicited and was offered by the village. Though he was confident he was not being pressured to resign because of any performance issues, Boyle said he was less confident he could sustain a potential lawsuit against the village, especially if he were unemployed. It was clear to both he and his attorney that the municipality would “get rid of me” one way or another, said Boyle. So, he took the money.
“It just seemed the easiest way and what I hoped would be the least detrimental, first and foremost, to my family’s welfare and to my career,” Boyle said.
Boyle has since taken a position in Grundy County where he oversees health and environmental inspections.
Commissioners Rory Hoskins and Marty Tellalian voted against approving the severance agreement. Tellalian went so far as to chastise the deal as “hush money.” In the months since Boyle’s departure, both commissioners said they’ve received no further explanation as to why the payout was necessary.