With four votes in favor and one abstention, the Village Council elected Michael J. Sturino Forest Park's new village administrator during a special meeting of the council on Monday.
Sturino's election fills a 7-month vacancy and ended weeks of review and negotiation between the candidate and the commissioners.
Mark Hosty, commissioner of Public Health & Safety, said he was happy to finally reach an agreement.
"I am looking forward to getting back to work on all eight cylinders," Hosty said, adding that Sturino is qualified and "has worked in municipalities before. [Sturino] specializes in law in zoning and planning. In my department, this is an advantage."
Sturino is a 1988 graduate of the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware and a 1998 graduate of the John Marshall Law School.
In addition to his municipal work, he also served as legislative assistant to U.S. Congressman Tom Carper in Washington, D.C. in 1986. He is accredited through the American Institute of Certified Planners and practiced law with Storino, Ramello & Durkin.
Theresa Steinbach, commissioner of Public Property, said she abstained from voting Monday evening because she did not agree with some of the terms of Sturino's contract.
"I do feel the man is qualified for the position," she said. "I don't agree with the salary increase that was afforded the position, based on the last administrator."
The last administrator made $88,000 a year, she said, while Sturino will be making $115,000 a year. This, she notes is almost a 31-percent increase over the last administrator's salary.
Sturino also received a six-month severance clause, a cell phone, cell phone usage and an unlimited gas card, she said.
"Though I am sure he will use it with discretion, and I do believe he should be reimbursed for his expenses as he is out doing village business, my suggestion is that he should be paid in accordance with IRS guidelines, where he would track his mileage and be reimbursed for it," Steinbach said.
"If you think about it, even if he just filled one tank a week in his SUVâ€"I am assuming it costs $30â€"that's almost $1,600 a year. If you add a $125 cell phone bill a month, that is another $1,500. That is an extra $3,000," Steinbach said.
In addition, she noted, as is standard with all contracts, the village is paying professional dues and educational expenses for Sturino capped at $1,500 each for a total of $3,000 per year.
"I support Michael as the administrator," Steinbach concluded. "I just don't agree with some provisions of the contract."
Another problem with the negotiations, Steinbach said, was that she and the other commissioners did not receive the final revised contract until 6 p.m. Monday evening, when the council met and began strategic planning discussions. Immediately after this session, the council convened behind closed doors to review and finalize discussions with Sturino.
"I had no chance to review it. Why couldn't that have been e-mailed to us ahead of time so we could reflect on the changes?" Steinbach said.
Steve Backman of Citizens Unite for Forest Park expressed a cautious welcome to the new administrator.
"My main concerns are the village government has been more or less restructured to require the need of a village manager. My only hope is that Mr. Sturino will be apolitical," said Backman.
"We had a serious problem with the last administrator. He worked for the mayor to the exclusion of almost everyone else and often served as a bottleneck to any kind of communication," Backman said.
Mayor Anthony Calderone, however, is confident in Sturino's appointment.
"Mike is a professional and he will do a professional job serving as a village administrator," Calderone said.
Sturino will be leaving his firm and is expected to begin working full-time as the administrator on Feb. 15.