Maywood Board Poised To Oust Manager, Hire Acting Manager June 21

Maywood Mayor Nathaniel George Booker, Village Clerk Diane Williams and Trustee Miguel Jones listen to Maywood resident Joe Wilson during a board meeting earlier this year. | File

Saturday, June 18, 2022 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Maywood Village Manager Chasity Wells-Armstrong could soon be headed for the exits after a little more than a year on the job. Meanwhile, the law firm that Wells-Armstrong hired in March is out, terminated by the village’s interim village manager, current Maywood Police Chief Elijah Willis, who had initially turned down the role of interim manager.

At a regular meeting on June 21, the Maywood Board of Trustees will vote on whether or not to part ways with Wells-Armstrong, who has been on paid administrative leave since June 4. The board will also vote on whether or not to hire an interim village manager to immediately replace Willis and to launch a national search for a permanent village manager.  

Some board members and Wells-Armstrong had said that Willis had declined the position. During an interview June 17, Maywood Mayor Nathaniel George Booker said the chief has since accepted the role, which he would only fill until the June 21 meeting — assuming the board votes to hire an interim to replace him. 

Booker seemed confident that a hiring will happen and that Wells-Armstrong will be terminated, given the results of a roughly two-month investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct the manager made against the mayor. 

The investigation, which was voted on by the board April 19 at the recommendation of Klein, Thorpe and Jenkins (KTJ) attorney Michael Jurusik before his firm was ousted by Wells-Armstrong in March, is by multiple accounts scathing in its assessment of Wells-Armstrong’s brief tenure at the village’s helm. Board members have estimated that the investigation cost nearly $100,000.

Booker said copies of the results of the investigation’s results will be distributed at the June 21 meeting immediately after the board votes to release the report. Attorney Carol Herschman, of Herschman Levison Hobfoll PLLC, conducted the investigation and is scheduled to present her findings at Tuesday’s meeting. 

Depending on the outcome, the June 21 meeting could be a culmination of a nasty year-long feud between Booker and Wells-Amstrong, who was hired at Mayor Booker’s urging last year. Wells-Armstrong was the only candidate presented for the job, with the board voting 5-2 to hire her in lieu of a competitive search. Maywood Trustees Isiah Brandon and Miguel Jones voted against the measure. 

But since Wells-Armstrong’s hiring and the resulting fallout between her and the mayor, Brandon and Jones have been her chief protectors, with the trustees vocally criticizing the mayor’s process for handling disputes with the manager. 

Wells-Armstrong has alleged that the fallout was primarily due to Mayor Booker wanting her to serve second-fiddle. When Wells-Armstrong, the former mayor of Kankakee before getting the Maywood job, refused and insisted to function within the village’s managerial form of government, she says the relationship between the two deteriorated. 

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Brandon and Jones have said that they were against the process of hiring Wells-Armstrong without a competitive search and have also alleged that the mayor has consistently attempted to micromanage the manager, who is responsible for overseeing the day to day functions of the village’s government. 

In March, a majority of trustees blocked Booker’s attempt to force Wells-Armstrong’s resignation, arguing that to uproot the former Kankakee mayor, who had moved to Bolingbrook in order to be within the village’s residency requirements, would be unfair. 

That seemed to give the village manager some leverage in her fight with the mayor. Wells-Armstrong also used her managerial powers to terminate KTJ and bring on Odelson, Sterk, Murphy, Frazier & McGrath — a law firm based in Evergreen Park that had worked with Kankakee when Wells-Armstrong was mayor. 

But the majority sentiment on the board seems to have changed since Herschman shared her findings with trustees in a closed session June 2, prompting the board’s 5-2 vote to suspend Wells-Armstrong. Brandon and Jones voted against the suspension. 

Booker declined to comment on the contents of Herschman’s report on Friday, only pointing out that the report did not validate Brandon’s claims of overreach. 

“When it comes to the things Brandon has said in regards to mayoral overreach, micromanagement and that I’m trying to run the day to day operations of the village — the report doesn’t have anything to point to those claims,” Booker said. 

The mayor also countered a claim made by some village officials that Herschman’s report is tainted by her connection to KTJ. Booker said that Herschman was asked by board members about her possible connection to KTJ and that she adequately addressed their concerns during a closed session. The mayor said there is no credibility to the claim. 

Regardless of the claim’s merits, it could come under scrutiny if Wells-Armstrong files a lawsuit after what appears to be her pending termination. And the matter could be handled, yet again, by KTJ. Booker said interim chief Willis recently rehired the law firm that Wells-Armstrong ousted. 

To see the meeting agenda for the June 21 regular board meeting, click here.

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