The Forest Park Village Council voted at Monday’s meeting to end a longstanding salary benefit for top police and fire officials but grandfathered seven current officials.

Under the previous parameters, police and fire officials with between 25 and 30 years of service were eligible for 4.5 percent salary increases that were offset by reduced health insurance benefits, which increased their pensions as an incentive to retire. The benefit was similar to one offered to employees of the police and fire departments covered by union contracts, according to Tim Gillian, village administrator.

The village council, Monday, voted to end the practice once all seven reach 30 years of service, or end their service with their respective departments.

The seven are Tom Aftanas, police chief; Phil Chiappetta, deputy fire chief; Kenneth Gross, police lieutenant; Mike Keating, deputy police chief; Bob McDermott, fire chief; Steve Wyler, police lieutenant; and Steven Zanoni, police lieutenant. 

Aftanas, Keating, McDermott and Wyler have already served for 25 years and are currently eligible for the benefit. Chiappetta, Gross and Zanoni will be eligible when they reach the 25th anniversary of their employment.

In conjunction, the village council voted to provide salary increases of 2.25 percent to all non-union village employees, retroactive to May. Gillian said the increases will affect 25 to 30 employees and are “in line” with increases covered by union contracts signed in 2017.

“The village of Forest Park has the most dedicated, hard-working folks that I have encountered in my adult life and are worthy of a much greater salary increase than what we can afford,” Mayor Anthony Calderone said. “Considering the worthiness and the great responsibility placed on us with regard to public funds, we are limited to the small increase that we approved tonight. This is a modest increase.”

Action Monday followed a closed session that lasted nearly two hours. The village council also discussed the matter in closed session for over 90 minutes in December.

Gillian explained that the length of the closed sessions was due to discussion of the benefit for top police and fire officials and not over the salary increases for non-union employees.

In a related vote, the village council made two changes to the employee handbook, deleting the longevity section and replacing the anti-harassment/sexual harassment section with a new anti-harassment/anti-discrimination policy.

Deleting the longevity section freed the village council to change the salary benefit for top police and fire officials and the anti-harassment policy was changed to meet a state mandate. 

Gillian explained that Forest Park needed to make the anti-harassment policy changes, even though the village’s employee handbook already addressed the issue, to use language matching the state mandate.

Public Act 100-0554 amends the Illinois State Officials and Employees Ethics Act by requiring local governmental entities to adopt, by ordinance or resolution, a policy prohibiting sexual harassment. 

Although many governmental entities may already have sexual harassment policies in place, the law sets forth new minimum standards for all policies. 

According to the new amendments, a policy prohibiting sexual harassment shall include, at a minimum, a prohibition on sexual harassment; details on how an individual can report an allegation of sexual harassment, including options for making a confidential report to a supervisor, ethics officer, Inspector General, or the Department of Human Rights; a prohibition on retaliation for reporting sexual harassment allegations, including availability of whistleblower protections under this act; and the consequences of a violation of the prohibition on sexual harassment and the consequences for knowingly making a false report.