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Plainfield Park Officials React to Peck's Resignation

Hurtado: "I take full responsibility."

Peter Hurtado. Credit: File photo
Peter Hurtado. Credit: File photo
Late Thursday night, Plainfield Park District board president released a statement regarding the resignation of Executive Director Garrett Peck, calling for "transparency and public involvement" during the transition to a new director.

Peck was hired last spring amidst controversy, as former Superintendent of Planning Cameron Bettin — who had originally been given the job — was demoted to make way for Peck. Bettin reportedly resigned last month.

"We are now entering a critical period of transition," Hurtado said in an email to Patch, "one which will be characterized first and foremost by transparency and public involvement. It is vital on this occasion that the board forms a broad consensus in regard to who is eventually selected to fill the current vacancy.

"These priorities are not only principles to be upheld, but lessons learned," Hurtado added.

Park board commissioner Mary Kay Ludemann said she was surprised to learn of Peck's resignation Thursday afternoon.

"Officially, this was unexpected and surprised me," she said, adding she is "cautiously optimistic" about what will happen next.

"As a board we have to go forward now and decide who's going to take Garrett's place," she said. Peck is not seeking severance pay or a payout on his three-year contract.

Gene Coldwater, who was promoted this week to the position of assistant executive director, is taking over the role on an interim basis. Ludemann said she hasn't heard yet whether the board will be conducting interviews for a new executive director.

"There should be [interviews], but I don't know because there were none when they hired Garrett," Ludemann said. "Personally, I'd like to see Cameron come back, but we're still dealing with the same board majority" that made the decision to demote Bettin, she said.

Hurtado, meanwhile, took responsibility for the recent turmoil within the park district.

"When we were faced with this task a year ago, the new board under my leadership did not take sufficient measures to include residents in our decision making process," he said. "I take full responsibility for the contention that arose from these oversights and will do everything possible to ensure that the present undertaking promotes harmony and togetherness."

After recent criticism concerning the park district's public comment policy, as well as incidents where members of the public were ejected from park board meetings, Hurtado also encouraged residents to speak up.

"I encourage all interested members of the general public to attend our upcoming meetings and engage with the board during our search for qualified candidates to occupy this position," he said in his statement.

Special meeting

Ludemann said conversation regarding Peck's successor could happen during a special meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday in the lower level at the Heritage Professional Center, 24023 W. Lockport St.

The agenda calls for closed-session discussion regarding a recent ruling by the Illinois Labor Relations Board, which found the park district to be in violation of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act.

The ruling came after AFSCME Council 31 filed a complaint alleging that Peck and Coldwater had interrogated employees regarding their involvement in unionizing.

One staffer, Joel Schumaker, was also reportedly disciplined, reassigned and ultimately fired by Peck in retaliation for talking to coworkers about forming a union.

Prior to announcing his resignation, "Garrett had asked the board for direction on how he thinks we should proceed with this," Ludemann said.

She said the park district has until Feb. 8 to offer Schumaker full reinstatement, with back pay, to his previous position. That has yet to happen, according to Ludemann.

Also read:

J. Hagen January 24, 2014 at 04:07 PM
Lori, you might take a little time to read this article concerning how the executive director was chosen. The three-minute video provides a sense of how welcome citizen input is. http://plainfield.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/it-s-official-park-board-votes-to-make-peck-executive-director
Vicky Polito January 24, 2014 at 04:53 PM
If Peter Hurtado accepts the responsibility he has to then accept the consequence. He needs to resign from this board, period. He's been incompetent and destructive as a public servant. He seems to be trying to set the terms of his comeuppance and he's going awfully easy on himself! More is required here than a few hundred words of talking-point riddled contrition under a glossy, smiling head-shot.
Robert Betzwiser January 24, 2014 at 07:52 PM
The Coup d etat most board members pulled on the residents of plainfield is now blowing up. As well it should. PPD ran well until most ( not all ) of this board were elected. I hope plainfield can find a PROFESSIONAL for the directors job. As we had with Gregg Bott. The board is suposed to be there to make sure of this. Instead they gave the job up for political reasons. Guess what , it did not work. Hopfully all of the voters will show this board the door next election. The Majority of this board has let the people of plainfield and the parks down. Opposite what they were elected for!
John Simpson January 24, 2014 at 11:28 PM
Last election these Tea Baggers flew under the radar. We need to call them out for what they are. We need to make sure Peck’s comrades like Chris Balkema, Yvonne Bolton and Mark Batnik don’t succeed in their elections.
Frank January 25, 2014 at 02:56 PM
On film ignoring & flagrantly disrespecting residents (his bosses) by playing tic tac toe & hangman. Censored public commentary. Told ED to call police/have residents & village trustee removed and/or arrested for no reason. Mismanaged staff. Mismanaged district. Now he's suddenly hero of the public? This dude's full of it. Who is he kidding? And with a straight face yet? He should bow out quietly in shame, be ran out, or if we have to wait that long voted out.

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