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Village Vision News

Administrator’s resignation leads to Board dispute

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The unexpected resignation of Village Administrator Heather Kimmons has brought scrutiny on how the Village is run and specifically on three-term Mayor Hap Gilbert. Gilbert, who was elected to the Village’s highest office in 2001, also previously served 22 years as a Village trustee. His current term is slotted to expire next spring, and he recently stated that he will not seek re-election.

Kimmons, who has served as administrator for just over two years, announced her resignation at the end of the April 2 Village Board meeting, giving the two-month notice required by her contact. At the April 16 Board meeting, her resignation was again the center of attention as Trustee Bob Rasho made a motion that the trustees deny it and elaborated by reading a prepared statement.

Noting that it was “incumbent upon the board to find the root cause(s) of why someone as capable as Heather would be “run off the job” in two years, Rasho said he was “shocked and extremely disturbed” at her resignation and accused Gilbert of working behind the scenes to “undermine her efforts and make her professional life miserable.”

Rasho indicated that he had been encouraged by Heather’s leadership and felt that the Village was making headway toward being run in a “more professional and transparent manner.” He also shared his concern that all that would come to a halt with Kimmons’ resignation.

“It is apparent to me that if left unchecked [Gilbert] will continue to disregard transparency, proper documentation, professionalism and [have a] total disregard for Board input,” Rasho said. He closed his statement with a vote of no confidence in the mayor and publicly called for Gilbert’s resignation.

“I have not conspired against her,” Gilbert said in response, noting that he didn’t know Kimmons had planned to resign, and that if he had known, “I would have tried to talk her out of it.”

“I supported her in almost everything we’ve done,” he said, suggesting that the “unreasonable expectations” of Rasho and other Board members had driven Kimmons to resign.

Gilbert accused Rasho, his opponent in the 2009 mayoral election, of “still campaigning for the election” and said, “It’s Mrs. Kimmons’ option whether she wants to resign or not. She is more than welcome to stay ... I’m not looking forward to an administrator search.”

In the discussion preceding the vote on Rasho’s motion, trustee Kerstin Trachtenberg said Kimmons “has done a wonderful job of handling everything we’ve asked her to do.” Citing the Village Vision as an example, she noted how it had transformed under Kimmons’ leadership from a promotional “puff piece” to an excellent method of keeping residents informed of what was truly happening in Village government. Searching for a solution to what she called a lack of collaboration among Board members, Trachtenberg suggested that term limits for the Village’s elected officials be put into place.

Rasho agreed, but trustee Larry Reed said “sometimes you need an old-timer to keep an eye on things,” noting that trustees weren’t fulltime, professional politicians, but essentially part-time volunteers who needed the knowledge base provided by those who have served for a while.

Before the vote was taken, Kimmons made it clear in response to a question from trustee Eric Morr that her decision to resign was firm, but she was “flattered” by the Board’s motion. She also responded to a direct question from Rasho, confirming that he had done nothing that led her to resign from her post.

Ultimately, the trustees voted 5-0 in a token vote to deny her resignation, with Trustee Steve Hubbard voting “present.”

That left only the decision of how to move forward with the process of hiring a new administrator, which the Board left in the hands of Kimmons, asking Morr and Trachtenberg to meet with her to discuss how to “learn from [this] and not make the same mistakes,” Rasho said.

Although Gilbert had wanted to hold off on a decision about how to conduct the hiring process for a new administrator until the next Board meeting, the trustees urged Kimmons to move quickly in hopes that the new person could be in place before Kimmons’ last day on May 31. Trachtenberg suggested a May 1 application deadline, with applicants to be considered at the May 7 Board meeting, which trustees approved.

“I can have an ad in the papers by the end of this week,” Kimmons said that night. “I think we have some good local talent.” She accepted a new position shortly after resigning as administrator and plans to continue as a Village resident. She will start her new job in August.

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