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Aldermen Sharply Criticize Police Chief Search Process

Three vote against appointing Ernest Brown as Darien's next police chief after they said they were denied input in the process.

Three aldermen denounced the process the city used to select as during Monday's .

At the in June, Alderman Joerg Seifert said the aldermen were told that they would have the opportunity to interview the city’s top three candidates.

But that didn’t happen.

“It was basically placed on our laps that this would be the chief of police,” he said.

The alderman had the opportunity to interview only Brown, Seifert said. Brown is currently deputy superintendent of the Chicago Police Department’s patrol division.

Aldermen Sylvia McIvor and Joe Marchese joined Seifert in voting against Brown’s appointment because of the way the city conducted the search.

More than 140 people applied for the position, left vacant after after nine years heading the department.

A reviewed the resumes and helped whittle the applicants down to 10 who were brought in for interviews. Mayor Kathleen Weaver and City Administrator Bryon Vana, with the aid of three committee members, conducted those interviews.

After she and Vana interviewed the final three candidates, Weaver said she was sure of her decision.

“I did not want to muddy the waters introducing two more candidates (to the aldermen) that I would not be comfortable having as my police chief,” Weaver said.

Weaver said she went out of her way to include the alderman in the search by initially saying they could meet the final three candidates. The Darien City Code says that the mayor has full authority to appoint a police chief “with the advice and consent of the city council.”

The aldermen did have an opportunity to review the final three candidates’ resumes, she said.

Originally Weaver thought she would have a hard time making a decision and would need the council’s support, she said.

“You said we ‘were’ going to be involved, not ‘if’ you had a hard time deciding,” Seifert responded.

Marchese said he was disappointed that he couldn’t honestly say Brown was the best candidate since he didn’t have a chance to meet the other two finalists.

For several months he has told constituents that the aldermen would be involved in the selection process, he said.

“I have credibility with the people who support me,” Marchese said. “I have to be able to tell them the process is transparent, that I had some input into that process. And I did tell them that. And I didn’t have that input.”

Brown did an outstanding job representing himself at the meeting and has excellent credentials, Marchese said.

“The problem is with the process,” he said.

McIvor said the words “advice and consent of the council” were what concerned her.

“Yes, you (Weaver) do have the ability to appoint, but I think the council is an integral part of that process and we are basically the communication channel to the residents who voted us into these positions,” she said.

While Brown’s record is impressive, McIvor said she also had concerns about whether three decades of service with the Chicago Police Department were a good match for the City of Darien’s needs.

Citizen committee member John Gonczy defended the city’s search process as thorough and fair.

He said that Weaver questioned the prudence of bringing three people for the council’s review when she was set on Brown.

Neither of the two current deputy chiefs — John Cooper and David Skala — made it into the top 10 candidates based on the rating system the committee developed, Gonczy said. Nonetheless, the city invited them to interview.

“Those of us who sat in that room agreed that (Brown) is a very good choice,” Gonczy said. “None of us objected to her choosing Mr. Brown.”

Alderman Halil Avci said that while it would have been ideal to meet the top three candidates, the question on Monday was whether Brown was qualified.

“Look at this resume and credentials and there is no doubt about his qualifications,” he said.

After the council approved Brown’s appointment by a 4-3 vote, JoAnne Ragona swore him in as police chief. Aldermen Avci, Tina Beilke, John Poteraske and Ted Schauer voted to install Brown.

Vana said on Sunday that Brown would officially assume his duties in Darien within 30-60 days.

BigCubsFan September 20, 2011 at 12:29 PM
“I did not want to muddy the waters introducing two more candidates (to the aldermen) that I would not be comfortable having as my police chief,” What a crock...
Mark Kiwiet September 20, 2011 at 04:06 PM
The "committee" and the "process" were are farce from the beginning and it was all designed to create the illusion of transparency. It's official now...we are now no different than any run of the mill crooked Cook County suburb.
DON WITTMER September 20, 2011 at 04:24 PM
I find it interesting that in her comments Major Weaver referred to our new chief as someone she could feel confortable with as "her " police chief. I thought the search was to find someone the citizens of Darien could feel comfortable with. In my opinion, by not allowing the the aldermen to interview 3 candidates as she promised, it supports the theory that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely". I think the time has come to elect a new leader (mayor) that the citizens of Darien can feel comfortable with
Barry Allen September 20, 2011 at 06:40 PM
I watched the proceedings from the back of the room. This was clearly all about "her". Since she referred to the intent to present all 3 candidates to the council as a remark she just added to Mr Vana's email I wonder whether it was ever a serious offer. It looked like she wanted to assert her power as mayor and an open, transparent and honest process (along with the aldermen that bought into it) were her direct victims.
Danny September 21, 2011 at 02:10 AM
How about just saying this alderman, I have not got enough feed back from the people I serve. A lot of people / older people do not have a computer. Its plan to me that our city government does not want any input from the people it serves. As our mayor said in the article above MY NEW POLICE CHIEF!!!! people say what they mean, OMG better stop writing in the blogs. Lawyer UP
John Doe September 21, 2011 at 12:42 PM
As a third generation Darien resident, I am very pleased with the choice. We are beginning to have big city issues in our small town. I have no time for the Alderman's two minutes of fame nonsense and the racist under tones of the true message. Welcome Chief Brown.
Johnny Wysocki September 21, 2011 at 01:33 PM
I tried to watch the meeting online and it seemed that the part when Mayor Weaver called the citizen a drunk is not on there. Nice editing by the city but this should not be tolerated from our Mayor and I would expect at least a public apology. I wish Chief Brown the best of luck but I was shocked that our 2 Deputy Chiefs were not even considered for the job. I wonder how someone with Mr. Brown's "baggage" was the Mayor's choice.
Steven Hayes September 21, 2011 at 02:06 PM
Any news on which deputy chief will get demoted?
Jim Sims September 21, 2011 at 02:45 PM
What was the comment about a citizen being a drunk? Who was she referring to? Did she use someone's name? I don't know what was being said or what council business was being discussed at the time, but no matter what it was, the mayor was out of line and should issue a public apology.
Tom Koz September 21, 2011 at 04:52 PM
The aldermen that voted in favor of the new Chief strictly on the mayors recommendation/desire, without even interviewing and seriously considering other candidates (one alderwoman even publicly stating before her "yea" vote that others seemed more qualified) directly violated their fiduciary responsiblity to the taxpayers of Darien. If charges cannot be filed against them, they must be voted out of their positions.
Tina Beilke September 21, 2011 at 05:56 PM
Tom, This is Alderman Beilke who I think you are referring to above. If so, I tried to carve my words out carefully in saying that I couldn't say he was the most qualified out of the 100 I didn't see, and I didn't get to interview the other two. However, I was trying to communicate clearly that from my "assignment" of looking over the three resumes in detail on paper, I thought he was by far the most qualified. As a matter of fact, he stuck out very clearly on paper. One of the other applicants didn't even have the word drug or gang in his whole resume. I did not intend to leave that type of unclear message out there. I studied long and hard on those three and had no doubt in my mind.
John Law September 21, 2011 at 06:54 PM
Haha. If the above really was written by an Alderman I can now clearly see why Darien is in trouble. So you took all resumes at face value and did no further investigation? Now that's pathetic. Of course he stuck, you do any research into what happened in AZ or why he couldn't get FBI clearance? Oh yeah, that's because he's a liar as to his background. But you'll find out his true character soon enough, enjoy...
Johnny Wysocki September 22, 2011 at 12:05 AM
Jim, the Mayor made a comment about I think his first name was Rick. When Rick came up to speak the Mayor did not realize her mic was not turned off and she stated "he is always coming to the meeting drunk". I would not expect to hear that coming from someone like a Mayor. Tina, my only question to you and the other alderman is you are all smart people with some sort of business background. Could you honestly say that if you were to start a business, any business, would you just look at the resume's and pick who ever looked the most qualified without requesting an interview? If the process the Mayor used was unfair that should have been more of an issue with all of the alderman as it was to a couple of them. I agree Mr. Brown has a lot of knowledge in the law enforcement I just don't think the process used to hire him was right.
Mark Kiwiet September 22, 2011 at 02:31 AM
Rick Biehl is whom she was referring too - when citizens get uppity they just get slandered - I am sure to be next
Marc Bellini September 22, 2011 at 11:47 AM
Tina, With all dur respect, you said. that you were a hiring manager at one point and Just because someones resume LOOKED good ON paper sometimes when you interviewed them the character flawed. OR vice versa. Sometimes the resume wasn't that great and the interview was outstanding. So with all that said, you were disappointed because Mayor Weaver LEFT you out of the decision process (because to me she doesn't give her council any respect or credit) But then WHY did you waver at the end? I was more than shocked to hear your vote, YOU buckled plain and simple. I KNOW that your Ward contacted you and expressed their thoughts, Does that mean anything? This is one of your first BIG decisions and my question is can you handle the pressure?
tim cummins September 22, 2011 at 08:23 PM
NEWS FLASH>>>> WEAVER WON THE ELECTION>>> Get over it and move on go wipe your tears
Brad Drake September 23, 2011 at 12:29 AM
I don't think any reasonable, semi-informed resident of the city of Darien can reason or even rationalize what has been going on in the city since May. We have somehow seen this city turn into an autocracy; with the desires and best interests of one person dominate political decisions. Politics are politics, but never should politics outweigh the safety and best interests of the people. That, unfortunately, is exactly what is going on here. Another thing I have noticed most recently is that if you don't go with the flow, if you don't go with the machine, you are labeled some kind of name or made fun of. (Examples: Rick Biehl being called a drunk on public television, and on here people being called racists for not supporting the process of hiring the new chief.) These are scary times we live in in this town...an autocracy now rules.
F Scholer September 24, 2011 at 02:15 AM
In your words you said you couldn't say he was the most qualified out of the 100 you didn't see, yet you vote for his confirmation? Explain that to me. How can you have doubts and you still vote yes? Seems to me your stance and comment should have been "do to the fact that I have not been given the opportunity, as promised. to interview the other two candidates to be able to determine if this gentleman is indeed the best qualified I cannot vote yes at this time." In my opinion you did not go far enough in your duty. There are times when you have to go beyond "your assignment" to come to a knowledgable decision. Sometimes you have to dig!! If someone doesn't want to make the information or persons available that you want to see, then demand it and stand your ground until you get it!!!!!
Paul September 28, 2011 at 03:08 PM
From an earlier article regarding the selection process: “I have reflected on all recent options related to the police vacancy and recommended to the council that Darien conduct an open recruitment for a police chief from qualified candidates from both within and outside of our organization,” Weaver said in the statement. An outside search firm will not be used by the city to conduct the search. Instead, Weaver said she would appoint a citizens committee to review applications and make a recommendation. Weaver’s selection would then be presented to the council for approval. Once a new chief is in place, Weaver said she planned to eliminate one of the department’s two deputy chief positions.

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