We’ll start by saying we like and respect Tim Gillian, Forest Park’s village administrator. He has done a more than credible job in the three years since he was hired in the peculiar circumstance of being a former village commissioner, the best friend of the powerful mayor and a person without professional credentials as a manager.
We go way back with Gillian and Mayor Anthony Calderone to their early days on the council when they were actually reformers touting, finally, the hiring of a professional manager to oversee the day-to-day work of the village government. But after successfully consolidating political and governing power with Calderone, a string of professional city managers no longer seemed so appealing, or in Calderone’s estimation, as necessary.
So Calderone turned to the retired Gillian and maneuvered him through a thicket of 30 actual applicants for the job, past the perpetually split village council and installed him as some sort of hybrid administrator – part legit, part political partner.
At the time we opposed Gillian’s hire as the ultimate insider deal that reflected all that was wrong with Calderone’s command-and-control political instincts. Back then we had other insiders tell us that what we were missing is that Gillian had always been the one person who could steer Calderone away from the shoals of political gamesmanship. And, yes, we’ve seen that at work. Gillian has the mayor’s ear in a way that Sturino, O’Shea and Thomas never could. On the downside, he has been the mayor’s political ally within the split council in ways that a true professional manager would never allow to unfold and which reinforces the sometimes bush league atmosphere of local governance.
This all comes up as we report that in a private session the village council last month narrowly rejected a proposed $20,000 pay hike for Gillian. Remember, part of the sell job for Gillian was that Forest Park didn’t need a manager with all the fancy degrees and the high-priced salary that came along with the pedigree. If that was true in 2009 it remains true today.
Even considering such an outlandish pay hike in these still difficult economic times is nuts and it is unlikely to sit well with other village employees who are rightly receiving just modest increases this year.
The squawking coming from behind closed council doors is because there has never been a formal job evaluation process in place for Gillian – who if things were working right would be the council’s only direct report. The mayor, in an e-mail, said that all but one of the council members has voiced his opinions on Gillian’s performance during discussions of his performance. In the politically charged, friends-and-family atmosphere in which this board operates, expecting council members in the near perpetual minority to offer their assessment verbally and informally is just another way to force their silence.
Tim Gillian is a common sense, problem-solving administrator. He signed on for a fair wage and that is what he is earning. That is how is he was sold to the village. Stick to the rules.