By Tina Richards 

Villa Park City Councilman Rick Barnett resigned his appointment as mayor pro tem just two months before the end of his term. His surprise resignation opened the door for Councilman Bill Nelson, who was named to fill out the vacant position. 

Barnett tendered his resignation during the Sept. 27 city council meeting, explaining that he had never wanted the position in the first place, and thought the seat should be held by someone on the council who would be there next year. Barnett’s term expires in December, and he is not running for reelection. 

The mayor pro tem had warned the council during its August meeting that he intended to resign, but his fellows thought he could be convinced to retain the position before the September session. “What are you doing?” asked an exasperated Diana Fascenelli, just after his homestretch announcement. “You only have 50 days left, why don’t you just nish your term?” 

10 months temporary 

“As you may recall,” Barnett answered, “I originally accepted the position because there was contention on the council at that time, and I didn’t want the other nominee to be mayor pro tem. I thought of it as being temporary.” The council was indeed divided when the mayor and mayor pro tem positions were filled back in December. The dissention was based on differing views of how Villa Park should be governed. Fascenelli, Barnett and Greg Mills tended to vote one way, while Nelson and Bob Collacott voted another. Both sides accused the other of being a “cabal.” The council chose Mills to serve as mayor; both Barnett and Nelson were nominated for mayor pro tem. It was Barnett’s vote (for himself) that decided the issue.
“I made it clear at that time,” he said, “I didn’t want it. Now the council is settled down, and it’s silly for me to have that position. The reason for doing it is no longer valid.”

“I support Rick’s decision,” Bob Collacott announced. “He stated why he made it. It’s not something for us to vote on.” 

“I don’t understand,” Fascenelli said again. “This council voted you into that position. You have a duty to the city. There’s no positive purpose for this, other than it being a political move I don’t know about.”

“I don’t get it,” Mills concurred. “The council settled down in May.  The timing is way off, it seems disingenuous; it seems an agreement is going on here somewhere.”

Unsolid ground

The “political move” and “agreement” that Fascenelli and Mills referred to was a suspicion that their colleagues we maneuvering to get Nelson appointed mayor pro tem before the end of the year.  But why?  The city’s mayor pro tem has little responsibility, other than to fill in when the mayor is absent.  There are just two council meetings remaining on this year’s calendar, and Mills reports that he plans to attend both of them.

Greg Mills’ term also ends this year, and he filed for a seat on the Serrano Water District Board instead of running to retain his council slot.  Two new council members will be elected in November and are scheduled to be seated in early December.  The new council subsequently elects a mayor and mayor pro tem.  The seated mayor pro tem is often given strong consideration to take over the mayor’s slot, but not always.

“I see that timing is causing some concern,” Barnett offered.  “I concede it’s late. It just feels like a position I shouldn’t carry on.”

“What are you trying to do?” Fascenelli asked Barnett again. Then looking at Bill Nelson, “You’re salivating about becoming mayor pro tem. You’ve had people email me and make phone calls, telling me you should be appointed.”

A new 3-2

Bob Collacott reasserted his support for Barnett’s resignation and nominated Nelson to replace him.

“We’re not there yet,” Fascenelli interjected, still struggling to change Barnett’s mind. “Your term is almost over.  Why resign now?  Are you sure you want to proceed?”

“Let him resign,” Nelson said. “Rick has a unilateral right to do that.”

“I’m going to proceed,” Barnett affirmed. “It doesn’t make sense as a non-running candidate to hold that position.”

Fascenelli then motioned to leave the position vacant.

“There’s an election in a month, let the new council decide.”  Mills seconded the motion, but it failed in a 3-2 vote.

Collacott reprised his Nelson nomination, and another three (Collacott, Nelson, Barnett) to two (Fascenelli, Mills) vote gave Villa Park a new mayor pro tem for the last two months of the 2016 council term.

11th-hour resignation confounds

Villa Park City Council 

Villa Park Councilman Rick Barnett