After a tumultuous year, there was more upheaval at the Plainfield Park District this week.
Seven months after essentially being demoted to make way for new Executive Director Garrett Peck, Assistant Executive Director and Superintendent of Planning Cameron Bettin is reportedly no longer with the park district.
Park board commissioner Larry Newton said the last day on the job for Bettin and landscape architect James Less was Monday. Bettin’s contract expires Tuesday. The duo resigned, according to a press release from the park district, but the circumstances surrounding the resignations were unclear Monday night.
According to Newton, the entire planning department is being eliminated, and consultants will be brought in to handle planning work.
“I feel terrible that Cameron Bettin and James Less are the most recent examples of dedicated and extremely capable employees of the Park District being cast aside for no apparent reason,” Newton said in an email to Patch. “Their performance had been exemplary.”
Bettin, who was recently named a park district “Professional of the Year,” was originally slated to replace retiring executive director Greg Bott.
But just days after two new board members were sworn in, the park board voted to name Peck the interim executive director, and to amend Bettin’s contract to make him assistant executive director. Bott’s contract was also altered, putting his last day on the job six weeks ahead of schedule.
In May, the board finalized the staffing changes, making Peck the permanent executive director.
On Monday, Newton said he was not informed that the planning department was being eliminated, and that the board had no input on the decision.
“I'm completely out of the loop,” he said. “There has been no communication with me about these decisions.”
Newton acknowledged that personnel decisions are the responsibility of the executive director, but expressed disappointment at the way it was handled.
“… There has been no communication by staff to the board about personnel decisions even as a courtesy,” Newton said. “In addition, no discussion has taken place on the board level of plans for the future of the district (personnel, capital expenditures, new programming, etc.). I'm very disappointed by the lack of communication on all levels. It appears that there is no desire to act collaboratively on any issue.”
Fellow commissioner Mary Kay Ludemann was also dismayed to learn of the departure of Bettin and Less.
“It’s very sad,” she said, adding it’s “abnormal” for a park district the size of Plainfield’s to be without a planning department.
'Change in staff direction'There’s no word yet on how much the district expects to spend on using an outside consultant, or how much the move could save the park district. According to park district documents, Bettin’s base salary is $115,000, just slightly higher than Peck’s $110,000. Less was paid $58,195 per year.
Peck and park board president Peter Hurtado did not return messages from Patch on Monday. Bettin also did not respond to a message from Patch.
Park district spokesman Doug Booth issued a press release, which was later obtained by Patch, announcing that Peck had accepted the resignations of Bettin and Less.
The release said, in part:
"The Plainfield Park District will enter 2014 with another new look and with a change in staff direction. Executive Director Garrett Peck has accepted the resignations of Director of Planning Cameron Bettin and Landscape Architect James Less, and says their departure gives the District the opportunity to move in a new direction.
“'Cameron and James deserve our thanks for their many years of service to the people of the Plainfield Park District,'” Peck said, 'but their departure also provides us with new opportunities for the future. After much discussion, their positions will not be filled and we will instead seek outside professional assistance for those duties which cannot be accomplished with existing staff expertise.'”
The release sent on to say that the departures will allow the staff "to further consolidate the District’s planning arm within the existing Parks department, seeking outside consultants when necessary for future major projects and further reducing costs associated with in-house personnel." Peck also said the move would allow the park district to reduce expenses and "budgetary pressure on the taxpayers."
The planning department's elimination is only the most recent staffing change at the park district.
In late June, public information coordinator Marianne Ryan was dismissed shortly after political consultant and former pastor Doug Booth was hired as the new director of communications.
- Plainfield Parks Officials Eject Resident ... And Play Tic-Tac-Toe?
- Plainfield Park District's Bettin is 'Professional of the Year'
- Plainfield Park District Treasurer Named Director of Communications
- It's Official: Park Board Votes to Make Peck Executive Director
- Plainfield Park District Fires Public Information Coordinator