How will Joliet find a city manager?

Joliet saga takes strange twists and turns in pursuit of city hall chief

Joliet is going through a lot of steps and maneuvers to post the city manager job for applicants.

The City Council meets at 5:30 p.m. Monday to consider bringing back former City Manager Jim Hock, although only on an interim basis.

In the meantime, Deputy City Manager Steve Jones stepped in Wednesday – also on an interim basis – to take over as city manager. Hock would replace Jones if he agrees to come back.

Jones replaces Martin Shanahan, who was removed Tuesday from the interim city manager job he had filled for the previous eight months. Shanahan returned Wednesday to his normal duties as city attorney.

Shanahan, after being removed from the post by a divided City Council after a debate at times peppered with insults and innuendo, said he would continue to be a candidate for the city manager job.

The City Council has yet to decide on the process for seeking a city manager.

But council member Sherri Reardon said the vote to remove Shanahan seemed to be the first step needed to get started on a candidate search.

Reardon said the candidate search appeared to be held up by concerns that city employees could not be used in the process because they all worked for the city manager and had a conflict of interest because Shanahan would be a candidate.

“By removing [Shanahan], it made a clear path for us to go forward in a traditional way,” Reardon said.

Reardon is among a council majority that since May 7 has indicated it wants the city manager job opened to potential applicants, while Mayor Bob O'Dekirk and other council members had advocated promoting Shanahan to the job.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” Reardon said Wednesday. “We’re the third-largest city in Illinois. I don’t see why anyone would be suspect of why we would open up the process rather than just giving the job to someone.”

Dozens of people turned out and several spoke in support of promoting Shanahan to the job at two council meetings this week.

Council member Larry Hug at one point as he questioned the removal of Shanahan stirred the crowd into a brief chant of, “Why?”

“You’ve not heard publicly what the explanation is yet,” Hug said to Shanahan supporters in the council chambers. “The simple question is why.”

Hug said it had been determined at the June 4 council meeting that the city would start the process of a candidate search.

“We had a couple of conflicts of interest that we had to address,” Hug added.

Three of the council members who voted in the majority in the 5-3 vote to remove Shanahan did not comment on their vote at the meeting.

Reardon was one, but she said Wednesday that her reason was to open up the job for applicants.

“It’s hard to see why that would seem odd to people,” she said.

Council member Pat Mudron also said little at the meeting but said Wednesday that removing Shanahan from the interim city manager post appeared to be the way to start the process.

Mudron said he had called Jones this week to clarify with him that the duties in his job description included stepping in as city manager when the post was vacant. In the course of that conversation, Jones made it clear that he was not interested in holding the post for a long period and noted that Hock might be available.

“I said, ‘Really? I’ll give him a call,’ ” Mudron said.

Mudron evoked surprise from some council members and groans from the crowd in the council chambers when he called for the special meeting to consider Hock for the interim city manager post.

Mudron said he talked to Hock on Tuesday morning.

During the conversation, Mudron said, he told Hock “that we need the process started to get applicants, which he said, ‘I can do for you.’ ”

Hock, Mudron said, would satisfy concerns about bringing in someone unfamiliar with Joliet and save the city the cost of hiring an outside search firm to find city manager candidates.

“He’s going to handle the process. He’s going to be interim city manager. Jones gets to go back to economic development,” Mudron said.

Jones doubles as the city’s economic development director.

Whether other council members consider Hock a solution remains to be seen. Two council members who support Shanahan for the job – Jan Quillman and Terry Morris – voted against having the special meeting to consider Hock.

Jones, meanwhile, said his first day as interim city manager went smoothly.

He has been a village or city manager in six towns: Indian Head Park, Lemont, LaGrange Park, Oak Forest, Glen Ellyn and Oswego.

On Wednesday, Jones said, he held a staff meeting with department heads.

“I just spoke with everybody,” he said, “about where we are and where the process is going.”