VP approves city manager contract

By Tina Richards

The Villa Park City Council approved the contract for its newly hired city manager, Feb. 7, and in doing so, suggested that what’s not good for the goose is fine for the gander.

Newly-hired City Manager Steve Franks’ contract is nearly identical to the one offered to original candidate Jessica Binnquist in December.  Binnquist’s contract had been negotiated by the city’s human relations committee (Diana Fascenelli, Bill Nelson) and legal counsel, and had been accepted by the candidate.  When presented to the newly-seated city council, Dec. 13, it was soundly rejected by council majority Bill Nelson, Bob Collacott and Vince Rossini.

Instead of ratifying that contract as expected, the trio took issue with the clause offering one-year severance pay if Binnquist was terminated early, and insisted that the contract include a six-month probation period.  Collacott presented revised contract language reflecting those changes, and the modifications were approved 3-2, with Diana Fascenelli and Robbie Pitts dissenting.  Binnquist subsequently rejected the revised contract.

Same thing only different
Franks’ contract, approved by a 5-0 vote, includes a one-year severance pay clause for early termination, and does not have a six-month probation provision.  

Franks’ contract does differ slightly from Binnquist’s.  While she was offered full medical benefits, Franks was offered the option of declining the benefits and receiving the cash equivalent instead.  Binnquist was offered 40 hours of paid leave over the course of the four-year agreement; Franks was given 120 hours over four years.   Binnquist’s contract included a $10,000 loan for education if she requested it; Franks' did not.

Curious about the similarity between Binnquist’s contract, which the council majority did not accept, and Franks’ contract, which was summarily approved, Villa Park resident Pam Dunn asked Bob Collacott why there were different criteria for the two candidates. “I just wanted to know why the contract was rejected for one candidate, but not the other,” she says.  “I specifically did not mention gender.” Dunn was one of many "diplomatic" residents who refrained from saying out loud what they were thinking.

Asked and answered
Dunn reports that Collacott told her it was because they were two different candidates with differing abilities, and that Franks had high-level executive experience. When pressed, Collacott changed the subject and cast disparaging remarks at Diane Fascenelli regarding her voting record.  Fascenelli has since asked Collacott for a public apology.

Franks comes to Villa Park after retiring from a 34-year career with Orange County.  He spent the last nine years as director of community services, responsible for OC public libraries, parks and animal care.  

Binnquist had 10 years’ experience as a city manager of a Los Angeles County municipality, and had served as an assistant city manager 10 years prior.

Franks starts work March 8.