Okon: Silence not always golden at City Hall

The Joliet City Council majority that voted to remove Martin Shanahan from his position as interim city manager may need to say more about what they’re doing to gain public confidence.

The debate on Shanahan's removal at the Tuesday council meeting was pretty one-sided with the council minority, including Mayor Bob O'Dekirk, doing most of the talking and at times insulting the other side, while they basically took it.

O’Dekirk at one point called Councilman Don Dickinson “a ringleader” in the removal of Shanahan.

“Ringleader” by definition refers to organizing illegal or illicit activity.

Whether the mayor meant it that way our not, “ringleader” is hardly a neutral term.

Dickinson said nothing in response or at any time during the debate.

Council member Sherri Reardon did not explain her vote at the meeting.

Neither did council member Pat Mudron, whom from all appearances of what’s transpired, is more deserving of the term “ringleader” if it’s going to be tossed around – deservedly or not.

Council members typically don’t explain votes. But this one was obviously different.

There was nearly a roomful of people in the council chambers, most of whom were there to support Shanahan, and over two council meetings several of them had asked for an explanation of his removal.

Council member Jan Quillman had accused the majority of making the council “look stupid.” Council member Larry Hug also questioned their intelligence in remarks. The mayor referred to their action as “nonsense.”

Council member Michael Turk, who voted for Shanahan’s removal, told the audience that he had given his reasons to the council in closed session but did not believe it was proper to discuss personnel issues in public, which is fair enough.

Council member Bettye Gavin was more assertive, insisting she wanted the job opened up regardless of whether it goes to Shanahan because of its importance and because Joliet was too big a city not to have the city manager position open to applicants.

Next move

Gavin did not articulate the connection between removing Shanahan and opening up the job for candidates.

But if that is indeed the intention – which Mudron and Reardon said it is during interviews with The Herald-News the day after the meeting – that it is an interesting next move in what looks at times like an unfortunate chess game in the process of installing a city manager in Joliet.

O'Dekirk at the June 4 council meeting said he believed no city staff could assist in a candidate search – even one as simple as a job posting – because they worked for Shanahan, who would be seeking the job,

That would have made the process pretty complicated.

Whether removing Shanahan from the position simplifies things or not depends on whether there is a next move. And there probably is.

As one council member said later in the week, “This isn’t over.”

• Bob Okon is a longtime Herald-News reporter. He can be reached at 815-280-4121 or bokon@shawmedia.com.