By Cindy Lenart Bartlett’s Village Board selected Trustee Mike Airdo as village president, replacing former village president Mike Kelly, who resigned his position on November 16, a day after the last Village Board meeting.
The true victors of the evening, however, were Mike Kelly himself, and Trustee T.L. Arends, who stood up for dignity, mutual respect, and professional decorum last month while other trustees--including Airdo--belittled Kelly for making late property tax payments, which had previously been resolved.
The Tuesday, Dec. 6, Village Board meeting was packed to a standing-room-only crowd numbering over 150, many who spoke on the tremendous void left by Kelly, and the urgency of naming an equally morally upstanding trustee such as Arends to the post.
Nearly a dozen speakers repeated the support, many calling for the resignations of Airdo, and Trustees Greg Martin, Eric Shipman, and Frank Napolitano, who bludgened Kelly at the last meeting. None of the speakers voiced any support for the four individuals.
Daniel Court resident Jim Russell led the comments.
“Mike was our mayor. We voted for him overwhelmingly and he is who we want,” he said. “What happened last month was unforgiveable. What happened with the Daily Herald and Greg Martin should never have happened. I think that you trustees should consider resignation yourselves. (Applause) I am asking for a special election 90 days from now for a new mayor and new trustees.”
Eastern Avenue resident Mary Higgins added her outrage.
“I am embarrassed for you,” she said. “When I read that two phone calls came in out of 41,000 residents, I couldn’t believe it. T.L., you should give these trustees a training program. That’s 0.0025 percent. Embarrassing...You are comparing two negative articles in the paper to a large number of positive ones about the good that Mike Kelly has done.”
Resident Jerry Faber, W. North Ave., said he was not proud of Bartlett. “This is an insult to our intelligence,” he said. “I have never seen a display like that for power in all of my life. Greg Martin ran a business in his home for the past 10 years, and didn’t have a license until last Thursday. There was an article that said that Mike Airdo was so drunk at the last fireman’s ball that we was falling down all over people. Is that what we want?”
Daniel Court resident Christian Steepleton said, “This should not have happened here. This man (Mike Kelly) was the best thing to ever happen to Bartlett and we lost him. It better be Arends [to replace him], or everybody’s going to hate you.”
Peter Court resident Sally Sanford added her praises of Kelly.
“He made us feel like we were important,” she said. “He listened to us. It hurts us to know that he was treated this way.”
Wayne resident Rick Newton, who worked extensively with Kelly, could only add positive comments about Kelly as well.
“You put this man through a living hell for being late on his taxes. This was not about image--it’s about hypocracy. You did a great injustice,” he said.”
Newton went on to point out that Shipman was ironically among a group of individuals at a recent Wayne Township meeting who defended State Representative Randy Ramey’s right to privacy on a recent DUI charge that measured twice the legal limit.
Former Bartlett resient Yvonne Lesko likened Kelly to George Bailey in “A Wonderful Life.”
“I am demoralized by the way he has been treated,” she said.
Braintree resident Carol Harrington, a retired teacher, called Airdo, Martin, Shipman, and Napolitano bullies.
“This is a beautiful example of bullying that I taught against in the classroom. (Applause) If there were another election today, Mike Kelly would be elected overwhelmingly again, in spite of the fact that his taxes were late. I too am ashamed. Your behavior never would have been tolerated by me,” she said.
Kingston Lane resident Cheryl Burseth added her distaste.
“The four of you are the biggest bullies I have ever seen in my entire life. I have witnessed your behavior several times and I am appalled. Everyone should resign except T.L., because she is the only one with some decency. I have never been so ashamed of the people that are supposed to be representing us.”
Listening to comment after comment, trustees sat stoicly, with the exception of Arends, who appeared pleased with the outpouring of support.
When trustees moved to adjourn to executive session to discuss the pending appointment, only Arends asked if the executive session was necessary.
“As a show of good faith to these people, perhaps we should not excuse ourselves,” she said.
With all others voting in favor of the executive session, members of the audience repeatedly called them cowards as they left the council chambers. The executive session lasted just short of an hour, with few from the crowd leaving during that period.
Village Attorney Bryan Mraz noted that Napolitano was not present, as he had previously scheduled plans to be out of town, and the parameters of the meeting did not constitute his attendance by videoconferencing.
Following that statement, Shipman moved to appoint Airdo as village president, seconded by Martin.
Trustees voted 4-1 in favor, with Arends opposing the appointment.
About six members of the audience applauded before Airdo was quickly sworn into office, not even moving to the front of the dias.
Despite the ensuing series of boos from the audience, Arends asked to make a brief statement.
“We do have a new acting village president,” she said. “Because this village is important to us all, we will respect your authority, Michael. While this is a fresh start, I hope that we can go on under a much brighter sky than it has been the last few years.”
Trustee Dennis Nolan served as chair of the meeting until Airdo’s appointment. For the time being, Airdo retained the right to vote as a trustee, and did not resign that seat.