Park Forest Village Manager Tom Mick Will Remain in His Post

Village Manager Tom Mick visibly moved
Village Manager Tom Mick was visibly moved as resident after resident came to the microphone to testify on his character and value to the Village of Park Forest. (Photo: Gary Kopycinski)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- It was a board meeting unlike any other in recent memory in Park Forest. Citizen after citizen spoke in affirmation of Village Manager Tom Mick.

From personal experience with Mr. Mick, I can assert he never desired to be the story. He repeatedly highlights the accomplishments of staff and citizens alike.

This night, citizens returned the warmth he shares a hundredfold.

And Mr. Mick was visibly moved during these testimonies.

“The only thing I can say is that it was very humbling,” he told eNews Park Forest.

The citizen comments were in response to troubling items at the end of the agenda for Monday’s meeting:

  • Executive Session
  • Return to Open Session
  • Approval of a Separation and Release Agreement
  • Adjournment

The third bullet point was in reference to an agreement, already drawn up by Village Manager Tom Mick and the Village Attorney, according to a phone discussion between eNews Park Forest, Manager Mick, and Mayor Jonathan Vanderbilt Monday shortly after 5:00 PM, just a quarter-hour or so after our story regarding Mr. Mick’s separation agreement had gone live.

According to Mayor Vanderbilt, the Separation and Release Agreement had been in the works for some time, but Trustee Theresa Settles told eNews Park Forest Monday afternoon that she had not yet seen this document nor had the board been made aware that the relationship between Mr. Mick and Mr. Vanderbilt had gone critical.

The call featured both Mr. Mick and Mr. Vanderbilt on speakerphone.

The first question came from Mr. Mick. He said the article sounded like I spoke with him. Mr. Mick said he and I hadn’t spoken in weeks.

That is true. He was not a source for the story. But Mr. Mick’s question seemed prompted by the mayor who wanted to know where the information in the just-published story had come from.

“Then who was the source?” The mayor asked.

I told the mayor I would not reveal my sources.

Ed Fizer at Village Board meeting
World War II veteran Ed Fizer smiles as the attendees at the Village Board meeting give him a standing ovation. Mr. Tom Mick priased Mr. Fizer during his remarks, and Mr. Fizer later praised Mr. Mick in precise, positive, yet pointed language. The pointed language was directed at the mayor. (Photo: Gary Kopycinski)

Mayor Vanderbilt said it was false that he had discussed selling the water plant, the Library, the Aqua Center, Freedom Hall, and the Tennis and Health Club. “As I’ve always said,” he said, he wants to do studies about selling water, for example.

I suggested that, perhaps, he told different people different things. Told him people talk to each other in Park Forest. And, I would add, I am a person in Park Forest and sometimes, people talk to me.

Told him I would add his denial to the story. Will put that at the bottom in italics, but not as a correction.

eNews Park Forest stands by its reporting.

“Is there anything else?” the mayor asked me. Thought that an interesting question since he had called me.

Told him there indeed was. Why did he do nothing, say nothing, when a member of the Youth Commission, someone appointed under former Mayor John Ostenburg but reappointed by Mr. Vanderbilt, someone who served as Communications Director on Mr. Vanderbilt’s mayoral campaign committee — when this same person, a volunteer commissioner, launched very public attacks directed at Mr. Tom Mick on Facebook?

“Why didn’t you step up as mayor and stop all this?” I asked him, and taking advantage of the opportunity to ask in front of Mr. Mick.

The mayor had no response. He replied that he’s busy. He said at one point that he and his wife had just had a baby.

Bless him and his family. Really and truly. But these attacks had been going on for a month, and Mr. Vanderbilt has posted to Facebook nearly every day he’s been mayor and before, when he was mayor-elect, posting his whereabouts anywhere he has shown up in town.

The mayor said I should ask the member of the Youth Commission, Joshua Justin Travis, why he posted those things. Frankly, I had no interest in why Mr. Travis posted what he did. I was and still am concerned that the mayor took no steps to stop this behavior — and his silence, in this case, suggests complicity.

Another question I hadn’t considered came from a number of citizens on Facebook in one of the threads under the first story: Why, exactly, is someone who engages in what amounts to repeated cyberbullying on the Youth Commission?

Back to Monday evening’s meeting.

Burt Odelson
Burt Odelson of Odelson & Sterk was at the dais as Village Attorney Monday evening. (Photo: Gary Kopycinski)

None other than attorney Burt Odelson himself of Odelson & Sterk Ltd. was in attendance at this meeting. That was a hopeful sign as Mr. Odelson’s depth of experience would no doubt be productive during the Executive Session.

The Executive Session lasted over 2½ hours. And citizens waited through it all. After 9:00 PM there were about 50 citizens who remained to hear the outcome of what was happening in the small conference room next to the board room. An hour later, only about 10 or so had gone home.

The wait became a vigil, with some joking about getting sleeping bags to wait out the board.

At the end of the night, it was the best possible outcome for the people of Park Forest. After the Executive Session meeting that stretched from roughly 7:45 PM until just after 10:15 PM, the Village Board finally emerged from the side conference room, took no action, and adjourned.

Tom Mick remains Village Manager. The board voted on no separation agreement.

Standing ovation for World War II veteran Ed Fizer
A standing ovation for World War II veteran and Montford Point Marine Ed Fizer at Monday’s meeting of the Village Board. The towering gentleman in the back is not standing on a chair. (Photo: Gary Kopycinski)

The official statement from the Village of Park Forest on this matter follows:

Following the Village’s regular meeting Monday night, board members, Mick, and Village Attorney Burt Odelson met in a two and a half hour executive session. Mick and Park Forest Mayor Jonathan Vanderbilt called the meeting after the two failed to reach agreement on several issues over the past month, after which both agreed it may be in the best interest of the community to consider a change in village manager.

Just before 10:30 p.m. board members emerged from the closed-door meeting.

Vanderbilt thanked the audience of nearly 40 who remained for their patience and stated no action had been taken.

Tuesday morning, Mick told staff members an agreement between him and the board had been struck for him to remain in his post for the foreseeable future.

“It has been a pleasure to serve Park Forest as the village manager and I look forward to continuing to do that going forward,” Mick said.

Over the next few months, Mick and board members will take part in team building sessions.

“We as a board selected Tom to be our manager and together we’re moving this village forward,” Vanderbilt said.

Village of Park Forest

More on this and videos will follow tomorrow. Thanks to all those who showed up and either voiced their support for Mr. Mick or came as a measure of solidarity with him.