GENEVA – The Geneva City Council voted Monday to appoint Tom Simonian as 5th Ward alderman, but two aldermen cast no votes, and at least one of them said he didn’t like the process used to select the new appointee.
Simonian will finish the two-year term left in the 5th Ward from the death of Ralph Dantino.
Two council members – 5th Ward Alderman Craig Maladra and 3rd Ward Alderman Dawn Vogelsberg – were selected to vet four candidates who were interested in the position.
Mayor Kevin Burns said the mayor has the power to appoint someone with consent of the council, but because he was in a contested race during the April election, he recused himself from the interview process.
After the interviews, Maladra and Vogelsberg made a recommendation to Burns, who made a formal nomination.
Simonian, who did not immediately return a message Tuesday, is founder and CEO of Incentives Inc., Array Enterprises and – from 2009 to the present – Hang In There Inc. Burns said while all candidates were qualified, Simonian was selected based partly on his success in running a small business, his involvement in the community and his independent approach to solving problems.
Third Ward Alderman Dean Kilburg and 1st Ward Alderman Mike Bruno voted against the appointment. Bruno said other communities, such as St. Charles and Batavia, make their lists of candidates public, but said Geneva aldermen were not given that information.
“We don’t see resumes or names, and we don’t know necessarily how many people applied,” said Bruno, who was elected in April. “ ... I’d like to make the process more open to the public.”
Kilburg could not be reached for comment.
Burns said Simonian’s nomination came through a transparent process that was based not only on advice from Maladra and Vogelsberg but also his own review of the candidates. He said no one said anything about the nomination process before Monday night’s meeting, even though they knew the city had been seeking a new alderman.
“While I respect their decision to vote as they see fit, I believe they have regrettably cast a pall over the spirit of teamwork ...” Burns said. “A night designed to be celebratory was sullied by these two gentlemen casting a vote that I believe had no basis.”
Burns said that he also felt the no votes were hypocritical because aldermen later voted on several reappointments on many city boards and committees without demanding the same scrutiny.
Bruno said he wasn’t informed of the name of the appointee until Friday afternoon, and didn’t see the questionnaire Simonian had filled out until just before Monday’s meeting.
“Other than the [Freedom of Information Act] request by a citizen who got the names of the applicants, the City Council was denied that information,” he said. “It’s certainly nothing against Mr. Simonian. It has nothing to do with him or anyone conducting interviews, just the general process.”