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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.

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John January 24, 2014 at 10:14 AM
Hurtado, if you are accepting full responsibility, then why are you still in your position? Why don't you follow suit and resign as well? This IS all your fault, moreso than Garret Peck's. You are a hypocrite and a liar, so don't pretend all of a sudden to give a single damn about the public's best interests
Jackie Darling January 24, 2014 at 10:50 AM
Hurtado do the right thing and step down. You and your cronies are an embarrassment to Plainfield. Let those who REALLY care about what happens to the Park District do their job. The Park district lost several valuable employees besides the ones that you chose to let go. Those employees would not have looked for other jobs had you not started this mess.
Joel Craig January 24, 2014 at 10:58 AM
"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. You know, Peter, if you and your cohorts decide to finally act like a professional board and put politics aside and work with your fellow elected commissioners and do so as one cohesive unit, and do you due diligence throughout the hiring process, then you don't need the Public's input. Do the job you all were elected to do, and don't be the lackeys for some incompetent political hack, and you just might end up with some public support. If you feel the damage you all have done isn't to great to ever regain any sense of credibility, that is.
Jimmy Parks January 24, 2014 at 11:04 AM
This is a joke right? The only way that hurtado can accept responsibility is to resign, period. If you look at hurtado's little snippet on the park district website, he speaks about transparency and responsible government. Now, almost a year later, he is beating that drum again? Give me a break. Makes me sick to my stomach that he spews this garbage. What should happen from these "lessons learned" is a mass exodus from the likes of hurtado, steinys, silosky and booth. Apologize for not doing what you were entrusted to do. Apologize for all the terrible decisions you all made that cost good people their jobs. Apologize for making working conditions absolutely terrible for the good employees of the district. Again, you should all step down and let people that don't just speak to speak, they speak and DO. Then, he mentions about "encouraging residents to speak-up." What planet are you from? Is this Groundhog day? Do you not have any memory of how you act in the meetings? Do you not remember having 3 residents who were "speaking" removed from the meetings for "speaking." Do you not act like a smug jerk and look down when people are speaking? Do you not have a stupid grin on your face at times when you do make eye-contact with residents? Until you lost your tic-tac-toe buddy, were you completely disinterested in what any resident had to say? Then, you follow up comments made with thank you for your comment. No response, no acknowledgment, nothing. You time people, change the public comment rules and are a terrible president of the park district. The only way to accept responsibility is to step down. You have zero support in this community.
Mareya Marmoll January 24, 2014 at 11:31 AM
The only way to right this terrible wrong is for Hurtado, Steinys and Silosky to step down. Peck was the first to go but until these three others go too I don't feel anything is going to change. They have done nothing but hurt our park district since they took their positions, they have not listened at all to the community. They have proven that they are not capable of completing their job descriptions. We have one down, but three to go!!!!
Vicky Polito January 24, 2014 at 12:18 PM
Hurtado has called for transparency for months, his mouth pronouncing the word while his hands worked the broom to sweep everything happening at the PTPD under a throw rug. Then his saying “When we were faced with this task a year ago, the new board under my leadership . . ." is tipping his hand that this fiasco was in the works long before the May swearing in of the current board. And, I’d like to hold him to the search this phrase promises: “during our search for qualified candidates to occupy this position". Also, it’s my understanding that Doug Booth does his writing for him, as he did when he worked as a paid campaign consultant for Hurtado a year ago, and that’s fine except I’d expect that the person that we pay good money for as a Communications Director for the PTPD wasn’t only paid to work on communications for Hurtado to the exclusion of all other things he should be doing. And, thanks to another resident, I was reminded of this, from just last May—thanks to them and to The Patch for documenting reality for us all, the video clip is amazing to review, worth your 3 minutes: http://plainfield.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/it-s-official-park-board-votes-to-make-peck-executive-director
Larry Newton January 24, 2014 at 12:25 PM
Mr. Hurtado ran unopposed when he was elected. It would be hard to determine whether those who voted FOR him or just completed their ballot.
Lori Bearbower January 24, 2014 at 01:32 PM
Hello- I just wanted to share that I wrote a "concerned parent letter" to the Park District administration yesterday, which I think is one of the appropriate avenues to express our thoughts. I haven't been involved in all the negative meetings that you guys are discussing here because we are fairly new to Plainfield, however, I don't feel name calling is where we should be at in this point in time.... just my opinion. .... We should try to be above this and not STEP DOWN to that level of interaction. Afterall, we teach our children how to debate while being respectful to others. I know it's easy for me to say this because I have NOT witnessed the actions that you guys are discussing here.... I have encouraged other parents in my neighborhood to write a community letter to the jpark district if they are unhappy with the leadership. Some of us would love to go to those meetings but have schedule conflicts with our kids. At least there are letters of documentation then.
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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