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Plainfield Park Board Begins Search for New Executive Director

Board members, residents also sounded off on suggestions to create an independent ethics commission, public advisory committee and "transparency checklist."

The search is on to replace Garrett Peck. Credit: File photo
The search is on to replace Garrett Peck. Credit: File photo

The search for a new Plainfield Park District executive director is beginning. 

A little more than a month after the resignation of Garrett Peck, trustees agreed to pay the Illinois Association of Park Districts (IAPD) $9,490 to conduct a search for his replacement. Peck remains a trustee on the Plainfield village board.

Park commissioner Mary Kay Ludemann said the IAPD search will move quickly, and a new director could be hired in three to four months. 

A committee made up of Ludemann, fellow commissioner Janet Silosky, interim Executive Director Gene Coldwater, retired Executive Director Greg Bott and board attorney Matt Campbell met last week to begin drafting the parameters and qualifications the IAPD will use in the search.

Based upon the qualifications specified by the committee, the IAPD will narrow down a field of applicants and conduct background checks on eligible candidates, according to Ludemann. 

“We would only interview the candidates that meet that criteria,” she said.

Campbell said since the qualifications list is still in draft form, it could not be released to the media. Ludemann, however, said candidates must have at minimum a bachelor’s degree and five years’ experience as a park district executive director.

The committee is slated to meet again Wednesday, according to Ludemann.

Asked whether recent turmoil at the park district — from controversy surrounding the hiring and resignation of Peck and allegations of ethical misconduct by board members to a ruling that staff violated state labor law — might deter potential candidates, Ludemann said the IAPD will work to recruit them.

“That’s part of their job — to market us [to applicants],” she said.

Ludemann did not say what the salary range will be for the job. Peck’s salary was set at $110,000. 

“We want it to be competitive enough that we attract qualified candidates,” she said.

Ethics committee discussion tabled

The board tabled discussion on the creation of an independent ethics commission until the April 1 meeting.

The idea came from president Peter Hurtado, who has faced ethics violations of his own in recent weeks.

“I thought it was a great idea to bring this for discussion,” he said. “We have so many issues, so many ethics violations [allegations],” Hurtado added, saying an independent commission could look into the issues further.

Board member Larry Newton, however, pointed out that the board already has an ethics ordinance in place.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” Ludemann said. “Yes, there’s been some questionable activity, but law enforcement is looking into it,” she added, referring to a recently launched investigation by the Illinois State Police at the request of the Will County State’s Attorney’s office. 

Ludemann also said she didn’t think another suggestion by Hurtado — the creation of a public advisory committee — was necessary. 

Hurtado said the committee could provide guidance from the public on park district issues.

“We already have — I should say, some of us have a very open relationship with the public,” Ludemann said. “This would have to be another layer that they would have to go through to communicate with us.”

The board also tabled discussion on a 10-point transparency checklist — also Hurtado’s suggestion — until the April 1 meeting. 

Newton pointed out that some of the items on the checklist could add to the workload of already shorthanded staff.

One of the items on the checklist recommended online transparency for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Until recently, FOIA request information was posted to the park district website, but was recently taken down.

“We were getting hit with so many of them that it was a struggle to keep up,” Executive Assistant Wendi Calabrese said. 

Campbell, the board attorney, said he advised officials to remove FOIA requests and responses because some of the posted information included details on severance agreements.

Hurtado questioned whether sensitive information could simply be blacked out, an issue Campbell said he will investigate. 

‘You will not gain the public trust’

During the public comment portion of the meeting, several community members spoke up to say the suggested committees and transparency checklist seemed like too little, too late.

“This public has been coming to meetings for months and months and asking questions,” and not getting answers former park board member Michelle Kelly said. “Your actions aren’t following your ideas.”

Plainfield Village board member Margie Bonuchi said the board majority of Silosky, Hurtado and Peter Steinys should heed residents’ requests to resign. 

“I’m not a person who gives up on things, but I’ve got to tell you, this ship has sailed,” she said, adding the board majority will not win back public support after all the controversy. “You guys are the only ones who haven’t figured it out — it’s over.” 

That sentiment was echoed by Plainfield Township trustee Ernie Knight. 

“It’s the same majority that created the problems in the first place,” he said. “You do not have the public trust; you do not have the public confidence. You will not gain that. You blew it in the first week,” he said, referring to the hiring of Peck just says after new board members were sworn in. 

my conscience March 11, 2014 at 05:07 PM
If you look at the postings from "Alice Norelco" you will see his previous screen name to be "Eyes on government".
Frank March 11, 2014 at 10:34 PM
Three people posturing and pontificating in a room full of circus mirrors positioned to give off the reflection of a crowd so the spectators, not having figured it out yet, continue to buy admission tickets to observe and participate in the illusion. This would make P.T. Barnum proud. As Terry Burghard would say..."LAUGHABLE!" Will the real Slim Shady please stand up...please stand up?
Frank March 11, 2014 at 10:54 PM
Hey....."plainfield pete" "my conscience" "Eloise Fields" "Jean Simon" "J Simon" "uptown" "Alice Norelco" "Allie" "eyes on government" "eyes on plainfield"......The three of you (is there anyone I missed...probably not) need to knock this off. It's confusing everyone but me.
Frank March 11, 2014 at 11:11 PM
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. ROTFLMAO!
camaro1 March 12, 2014 at 09:22 PM
BNB, thanks for sharing the uneducated comment from Alice Norelco. The only boards that pay a stipend are the Village Board and the Plainfield Township Board. So what the heck is Alice referring to when she says the school, library and park board members are getting paid? They are all volunteers! And since when does where someone works determine whether they are worthy of volunteering their spare time to do good within their community? Perhaps Alice can explain her logic?

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