Plainfield Village Board members at odds with mayor for not reappointing administrator

‘We think you’ve overstepped your bounds and your authority’

Plainfield City Hall in Plainfield, Ill.

Plainfield Mayor John Argoudelis announced during a meeting Monday that he did not reappoint Brian Murphy as village administrator.

Argoudelis said he had “nothing but good things” to say about Murphy and commended his service to the village. In arguing why he felt a change was needed, he said, “I was elected as an agent of change, however, and I believe strongly that it’s very difficult to institute change if you have all the same players.”

The decision set off a lengthy and heated debate over the mayor’s ability to appoint another person to the position.

Argoudelis cited a state statute that says the employment of the administrator, along with other positions, may not exceed the term of the village president. So with the end of Mayor Michael Collins’ term, Argoudelis said he had the legal authority to appoint someone else to the position, with the approval of the Board of Trustees.

He said Traci Pleckham, the assistant village administrator, agreed to serve as the village administrator on an interim basis. Argoudelis said Murphy “relinquished” his duties last week on his own after not being reappointed.

Trustee Brian Wojowski said he disagreed with Argoudelis’ decision and made a motion to plan a special meeting Thursday to hire the law firm Odelson, Sterk, Murphey, Frazier & McGrath for consultation on the issue. He also wanted Murphy’s village email reactivated, a motion to direct the mayor to “not interfere” with Murphy’s work as village administrator and a motion to extend Murphy’s contract for two years.

Argoudelis questioned whether such a motion was appropriate, but ultimately, board members Cally Larson, Patricia Kalkanis, Tom Ruane and Wojowski voted to set the meeting for noon Thursday.

The mayor took issue with the meeting being at an unusual time, as most board meetings are in the evening.

Larson and Wojowski argued there was a “sense or urgency” to hold a special meeting because they said Argoudelis acted without legal justification.

“This is an emergency, Mr. Mayor,” Wojowski said. “We think you’ve overstepped your bounds and your authority.”

Trustee Kevin Calkins took issue with his colleagues’ framing of the situation.

“There is no emergency,” Calkins said. “You guys are insane.”

Argoudelis said the trustees pushing for the meeting were playing politics since he defeated their favored candidate, former Trustee Margie Bonuchi, in the April election.

“This is simply board members trying to usurp the law,” Argoudelis said.

The mayor also said hiring an outside law firm to consult on the issue of whether Murphy should be the village administrator would be costly to taxpayers.

Still, Kalkanis said Argoudelis could not remove a village administrator on his own and did not follow the village’s municipal code, which says the administrator “may be removed from office at any time by a majority vote of the president and Board of Trustees.”

Argoudelis said the statute that says an administrator’s contract expires at the end of the incumbent mayor’s term was clear and that it was up to him to appoint a new administrator for the board to approve or not. Jim Harvey, the village attorney, agreed with the mayor.

The special board meeting is set for noon Thursday.