Plainfield Park District Axes Planning Department: Board Member

Staffers Cameron Bettin and James Less have reportedly resigned; Peck says the positions will not be filled.

Cameron Bettin. Credit: Submitted photo
Cameron Bettin. Credit: Submitted photo

After a tumultuous year, there was more upheaval at the Plainfield Park District this week.

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  • 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.


    JustAnOpinion January 01, 2014 at 11:18 AM
    Really people? This comes as a surprise? I don't know James, but from what I am reading here, he's a great guy. I think the big "shocker" is that Cameron stuck around this long. There was no doubt that he will be moving into a better position whether public or within the private sector. So before tears start running down your face, this is likely exactly what he wants. I'm sure the separation from the choas and the silence it brings are very welcoming.
    Mayhem January 01, 2014 at 11:55 AM
    When dealing with taxpayer money and decision making, past employment history should be open season. I agree, the whole, small business owner thing is very stale, as it is obvious they aren't good at it.
    Stella Reese January 01, 2014 at 01:13 PM
    We write the paychecks. Why wouldn't we deserve to know something about our employee's history? My heart goes out to the people who've been able to hang onto their jobs at the PPD, just trying hard to keep earning a paycheck. It can't be a fun place to work at these days.
    Lisa S. January 01, 2014 at 02:41 PM
    Garrett Peck serves at the pleasure of the Plainfield Park District Board. He does not have the sweeping authority to simply make decisions and not inform the Board of them. Where is our self-proclaimed 'Board Majority' word on this? Mr. Hurtado must be busy playing 'tic tac toe'....or perhaps the gravely appropos 'hang-man'. Mr. Peck could have gone along quietly in this job he is ill qualified for, collecting a sizable paycheck. However, he has chosen to turn the organization upside down and ruffle a whole lot of feathers. That did no go unnoticed by many. His day will come.
    Bad News Bears January 01, 2014 at 02:59 PM
    Since all this happened, the only dealings I have with the PPD are to try to pressure our representatives to get involved. I have removed my children from all activities as have many people I know. Not giving one extra cent to these people. Unfortunately, that will probably result in even more people losing their jobs, but I will not be a hypocrite. My nephews are involved in the PSA and rumor has it that the new PPD Soccer program is going to go down in flames. Wonder who will lose their job when that happens, because I know it won't be Peckerhead
    JustAnOpinion January 01, 2014 at 10:34 PM
    This is actually very exciting news. Two long term, highly regarded employees can move ahead in their careers with other entities, most likely greatly improving their quality of life, separating themselves from all drama created by a small group of individuals so bent out of shape that they were beat in the election, they fail too see the good in anything. The way I see it, the PPD is creating a significant saving by not filing these ppositions and turning to outsource professionals. I am looking forward to hearing you all cheer them on when you find the annual savings can be put into park improvements, additional programs for kids and because of you, Bad News Bears, more marketing to attract participation because we are now nine kids short. Brilliant idea. Doesn't surprise me.
    JustAnOpinion January 01, 2014 at 10:35 PM
    Typed on a handheld.... Ergo crafty spelling..
    MadamPomp January 01, 2014 at 11:57 PM
    JustAnOpinion, they are not eliminating an expense. They are just replacing who the "pay to the order of" is on the check to, which is a "for profit" company. Key-word here is "for profit". This means the consulting firm will pay a salary to their employee, plus benefits, plus add a margin for profit.
    MadamPomp January 02, 2014 at 12:11 AM
    Oh, and by the way, you are not just paying consulting group for salaries, benefits and profits. You are also paying for their office space, insurance, and other overhead.
    MadamPomp January 02, 2014 at 12:15 AM
    I wonder what the hourly rate this design group charges? Will each project be sent for 3 bids? Will they be hired on a retainer?
    Vicky Polito January 02, 2014 at 09:30 AM
    JAO—you’re either stupid or drunk. Or, maybe a stupid drunk. If you’re just drunk, put the booze down and eventually you’ll sober up. Stupid, however, you’re stuck with. If your delusional insider theory about all the swell freedom and joy that comes with being cut lose from a job at PTPD is right, let’s see how happy we can make Garrett Peck and Doug Booth! Oh, wait, that wouldn’t be the same at all, would it? Neither of those two are “well-regarded” or a “great guy”, nor are they highly-skilled and educated industry professionals, so they need to hang on to whatever paying gigs they can get, by hook or by crook. They must thrive on the drama and the hardship because they are responsible for all of it, along with Peter Hurtado, Janet Silosky, and Peter Steinys. Note: once again, JAO is the only voice trying to defend these bad acts. JAO had to be monitoring the story from the hour it went up, and cowering the tall grass for a while before commenting. See, JAO didn’t bring the crazy until after this story drifted off the main page of The Patch. So, JAO, tell us again how you are not a shill for the worst elements of the park district and are just a person commenting on the news you see when you see it. Everyone else, review closely the phrasing and the emphasis of the “ooo-pin-yons” of JAO. Read the blurbs carefully and tell me you don’t hear the pattern and the spin we’ve all come to know so well from one person in particular. Idiot!
    Mayhem January 02, 2014 at 09:42 AM
    JAO- Who are you referencing when you say "drama created by a small group of individuals so bent out of shape that they were beat in the election"? I think a lot of people would love the answer to to that.
    Mayhem January 02, 2014 at 09:48 AM
    Anyone else find JAOs choice of words hauntingly similar to those we hear at the meetings.... blah, blah, blah, blah, blah....same word, same excuses, just another name attached.
    Dennis January 02, 2014 at 10:01 AM
    Typical new way of thinking for corporate America. Why keep valuable employees that establish pride, quality, and cohesiveness to a company (or civic operations like the PPD). Just go ahead and out source everything to companies (that probably out sources their services too). It really never saves a dime.. Only people it serves is the CEO (President or whomever) and shareholders who reap short term profits. Pensions, health care, benefits are all destroyed for anyone except the leaders. No long term commitments anymore. How does that mentality make a company (or organization) great. So many great companies now have moved operations to Mexico. No wonder so many Americans are unemployed. Yes, I understand that that is off topic about this problem with the PPD.. but it is that mentality that is destroying our country. Is this what this new ' Tea Party' is all about? Is this what we really want in America? I'm pro business all the way.. but this crap is all wrong IMO anyway.
    Frank January 02, 2014 at 06:28 PM
    Issues like this can only be changed at the polls. Hurtado was elected after running unopposed. That would either suggest he was given a mandate by the voters or that the voters were asleep at the wheel. If asleep at the wheel, it would make more sense to begin recruiting a sufficient number of voters to change it at the next election instead of grousing about it. If this proves ineffective, I'd say the mandate theory applies. What bothers me isn't so much the changes, but the way they come about. There are classy ways to do things and there are ways to do things that lack class and appear steeped in arrogance. If I were asked to take over a company and develop a new business plan to achieve a certain set of objectives and I felt that the execution of that plan would not be successful with the human capital and modus operandi I had to work with, I'd have to make changes, even if unpopular, or I'd be derelict in my duties to those that put me in place to develop and execute the new plan. Because of this, it's not that the changes surprised me, but the manner in which they were brought forth. Class, respect and treating others with dignity goes a long way, where many of the antics that are being displayed by these people serves little except to rile up the citizens.
    MadamPomp January 02, 2014 at 06:33 PM
    I say we also eliminate Peck and Booth's position then as well; just let Hurtado run it all as he is anyway...no need to pay for puppets.
    Vicky Polito January 03, 2014 at 10:44 AM
    Frank, you definitely make many solid and important points, but I'd still add that there are good reasons to keep grousing, keep raising a strong voice. If for no other reason than that citizens being vocal can help build to resolving this at the ballot box. In the coming election cycles, many people across parties can join together and apply some fixes here to keep the FAKE Tea Party/Crony Capitalists from prevailing. And, perhaps some very good candidates will be inspired to run and others inspired to support them, to get OUT the vote on election day through solid organization and teaming up. As you noted, one horse races can lead to huge problems.
    Mayhem January 03, 2014 at 10:47 AM
    Frank January 03, 2014 at 02:02 PM
    I see your point Vicky, and whether I agree or not, I do respect your opinion as a fellow voter and fellow citizen, but given the apparent dozen or so people that read this blog, I still feel that it would be more productive if those with opposing viewpoints expended their energy in a more productive fashion, rather than riling up the same dozen people over and over again. If you feel the need to change things, organize mobilize and change things; that's every voter's right to do so if so compelled. But I feel that that type of endeavor requires being heard by a far wider audience than can be found here. If you believe that the issues you are passionate about are shared by the masses, organize a grass-roots campaign to implement them. It's possible that you'll find that many agree with you, it's possible you may find that many do not. However, it is a given that nobody will know what that answer to that is until the audience is expanded beyond a forum that doesn't have enough participants to fill a small room. I'm not being critical, I'm simply offering constructive criticism.
    Vicky Polito January 03, 2014 at 02:53 PM
    I understand and also appreciate your take, Frank. Thank you because your comment is very constructive. I'll say that behind what you see on Patch there is indeed a greater number of people involved and "riled up". Not everyone cares to express themselves in this particular venue or way. I know other organizing platforms are being used with other audiences and participants. All I mean is that, again, you are bringing up very good points that have occurred to other people who are intelligent and reasonable, just like you, and that the assumption that what you see and read on this particular forum is the sum of community interest, involvement, or action is flawed. The Patch is a good tool, but it's not the only game in town. I also say that my belief is that what we’re all up against here is a handful of miscreants—really, just about five people—up to no good for the community at large. If even any small roomful of people grabs on and keeps pulling on the other end of the rope, they can win the tug of war. Look at the things you pointed out and focused on about the actions of the PTPD of late. I say these are the actions of a very small group of people who’d have trouble filling walk-in closet, let alone a small room. They are doing many of the things they do exactly because they are terrified of the power of the opposition, which they know (no matter what they claim) is greater than them. Why else do they try to silence voices, dodge questions, and limit access to a public concern? It’s fear. Finally, all this debate about who and how many aside no one should ever censor or limit themselves just because of “the odds” or the numbers. We all do what we can because that’s all we can do, right?
    Frank January 03, 2014 at 04:58 PM
    I think we're basically saying the same thing. The point I'm trying to make is that besides what I've read in this forum, I haven't really noticed any other people, place or "forum" in town that was all a-twitter about this issue. That would suggest two things. One...few people know, or, two...few people care. Every time I vote, I'm amazed over the number of unopposed candidates on the ballot, or the number of positions that say "vote for no more than five" and there aren't even five names available to vote for. Count them up next time you're in a polling station; it's startling. Few people know me from Adam, or have any idea what my views or thoughts are, and I probably could have gotten elected to any variety of posts just by virtue of having a dot to color in next to my name printed on a piece of paper. When you ponder that thought and the potential ramifications, that's pretty scary. The general lack of interest is appalling. No "precinct captains" canvass the various parts of town to register voters. Nobody expends any energy whatsoever to expand public interest in our local government. However, everyone screams bloody murder when something happens that they don't like or are uncomfortable with. Personally, I'd like to see more participation. I'd like to see an election where someone actually had to "work the crowd" to get elected instead of the winner being decided by who stole the most opposing campaign signs. In all the time I've lived here, only one person knocked on my door to ask for my vote. Again, pretty scary.
    JustAnOpinion January 04, 2014 at 09:48 AM
    Vicky, wow, you are easily frazzled aren't you? I think that's the first time you resorted to calling me a "stupid drunk". Nice to see that you moved on from earlier accusations of my being some young girl who was sleeping with Garrett. It's no wonder why over the last few months that it has been obvious that your small group, who I called "constant complainers who themselves never offer an alternative plan" is separating themselves from you. Do you really think the more words you type on a blog is related to how smart you think you sound? It just bores people to death and I cannot imagine so many others who just roll their eyes when they see one of your manifestos. But.... If you would like to resort to more name calling and Shannon will allow it, I am all in. I would think rather than that, your energy would be best used in writing YOUR ideas and plans to make the PPD a better place. Anyone can film a video and get kicked out of a board meeting which certainly isn't going to make you a martyr, but please do something different than just complain. It is not moving anything forward and although typical of your posts, people are really tired of you and a handful of beating that same old drum, crying about Peck not being qualified. It will change NOTHING, but your plans and ideas might. Onto the point at hand, many progressive park districts through the United States utilize outsourcing as it is a way to create efficiency and cost savings, both of which I am certain will be seen in Plainfield. Who knows, through the bid process, perhaps a local business will be awarded some of the work. And before you say "Yeah, probably one of Garrett's buddies", there are businesses right in our community that specialize in the outsourcing needs of the park district. Let the bidding and cost savings begin!
    JustAnOpinion January 04, 2014 at 09:49 AM
    Wow, that was a long one. Vicky, people might not read it because they may think you wrote it.
    joan husarik January 04, 2014 at 10:07 AM
    I agree with Vicky, and think she raises many points quite articulately.
    JustAnOpinion January 04, 2014 at 10:08 AM
    Frank - I truly admire your post and thinking. I especially enoyed your piece as you compared a situation where you would have to make unpopular changes at a corporate level. Well said.
    Frank January 04, 2014 at 11:37 AM
    Thanks JAO. Just saying there's two sides to every issue. I've been in situations where I had to make unpopular choices. At a corporate level, if your neck is on the line, you have to do everything you can to deliver; if you don't, you lack the stones to do the job, in my opinion. To expect someone to start at point a and get to point b via the use of an obsolete road map is setting someone up for failure. I'm not defending any of the BS I've seen, like the disrespectful stuff, et al, which needs to stop immediately in my opinion. But I am saying that you need to give things a chance to play out, because like it or not it's what we have right now. If it works, we all benefit and if it don't...that's what elections are for. Very simple.
    Bad News Bears January 04, 2014 at 12:42 PM
    I agree with Frank that at times unpopular decision need to be made, but how does firing/eliminating hard workers do that? Maybe if there were some actual facts backing up the decisions of the current board and administrators, people would calm down. Instead, there's an attitude of "I do it because I can" with these people. Abusing power usually riles people up. And let's not forget that the PPD is not a corporation. They are a not for profit paid for by the taxpayers of Plainfield. Cameron and James are respected and loved in our community for working hard to better all of Plainfield. What do they get for thanks? Pink slips a few days after Christmas. And the powers that be refuse to say why. That's cocky and arrogant and very similar to playing tic tac toe while the people they are working for make valid points at a board meeting. And for the record, I do not have 9 kids and have no idea why JAO thinks I do. Please defrain from speaking of my family, whom you do not know, and maybe people won't call you names. JAO, when you act like a petulant child, you will be treated like one.
    Bad News Bears January 04, 2014 at 12:46 PM
    Oops, refrain not defrain. And Vicky is right about the size of the opposition. It's pretty large and growing. Their actions continuously anger people so the group continues to grow. I'm wondering if they love the attention or really are just so unintelligent they don't understand what their role actually is supposed to be
    Frank January 04, 2014 at 02:03 PM
    We don't know at this point if they were pink slipped as you say. If I were a betting man, I'd guess they all just decided to part company. I'd have done the same thing. It's unfortunate and I feel bad for those guys, but the writing was on the wall.
    Frank January 04, 2014 at 02:08 PM
    For what it's worth, I hope the opposition IS growing because that would be a healthy thing. Allowing so many of these races to go on uncontested is a travesty. If you leave supper on the table and go to another room to take a phone call and the dog eats it all, the dog is going to have a good meal and you are going to be eating at McDonald's. Is it the dog's fault? Heck no!


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