Berwyn mayor builds power base as new aldermen await their seats

By Jean Lotus Staff Reporter

Berwyn Mayor Robert Lovero appoints Cmdr. Michael Cimaglia as new Berwyn Police Chief at the April 25 city council meeting. (Photo courtesy of Facebook, Mayor Robert J. Lovero)

Newly-elected Berwyn aldermen were surprised and frustrated when Mayor Robert Lovero loaded up the agenda of a final “lame duck” city council meeting April 25, in the time window between Cook County Clerk’s release of final certified results and the swearing in of the new aldermen May 9.

The council, with four outgoing members, passed an agenda rehiring 27 department employees, naming a new police chief and repealing the ordinance for setting up aldermanic committees. Lovero also declined to appoint newly elected treasurer Cynthia Gutierrez as a voting member of the police and fire pension boards, unlike her predecessor longtime Treasurer Joseph Kroc. Lovero appointed Benjamin Daish, the city’s assistant finance director, to both boards.

“I was kind of caught a little off guard,” said Jose Ramirez, 2nd Ward alderman-elect. “Historically, the treasurer always had a seat at that table. Not to give [that appointment] to Cynthia was pretty insulting,” he said. “Cynthia was the top vote-getter in the election.”

“The mayor has the discretion on appointments,” Gutierrez said. “I will be a nonvoting member of the police and fire pension boards, for now.”

Gutierrez said she planned to make the treasurer’s office less of a figurehead position and use her skills as a finance professional to help the city, especially with financial transparency.

Incumbent Alderman Robert Fejt, Gutierrez, Ramirez, Jeanine Reardon and Edgar Garcia Perez won as new candidates on the Berwyn United slate, which took four of the eight aldermanic seats, treasurer and clerk.

After the bloodsport of a Cook County election, the transition from old elected officials to new ones was tense. The last “Team Lovero” city council, which had been criticized as a rubber stamp, set up the playing field for the mayor’s consolidation of influence.

Cmdr. Michael Cimaglia, who had been acting police chief, was appointed police chief. The former chief, James Ritz had been on medical leave. The council agenda did not specify that Ritz was resigning, but Lovero confirmed it after the meeting. Cimaglia is listed as earning $64.50 per hour on the Better Government Payroll Database.

The council approved the renewal of all department heads, including the Village Manager Brian Pabst, the finance director, city attorney, and heads of the building department, public works, the recreation department, library and others. The list also included several police commanders and deputy fire chiefs.

Cynthia Gutierrez, newly elected treasurer of Berwyn. (Photo courtesy of Berwyn United)

Repealing the 1989 ordinance that set up the process for aldermen to organize into committees was explained by the mayor as a way to revamp the committee system, which had not been kept up to date.

“No one attends those committees, some of them haven’t been active in years,” Lovero said. The mayor said he wanted to meet with the newly elected aldermen to choose new committees or get rid of some of them.

But Village Clerk-Elect Marge Paul found getting rid of the entire ordinance overkill.

“I was alarmed, and I’m still alarmed,” she said. “There’s no venue for aldermen to meet with other aldermen and not violate the Open Meeting Act,” she said. The OMA forbids more than two elected officials from meeting without following the rules for a public meeting. “I would have tried to have an ad-hoc committee revamp the committee assignments, I wouldn’t have tossed out the baby with the bathwater,” she said.

Lovero said he met with every new alderman and explained that the committees were obsolete and needed to be made relevant.

“My intention was that the aldermen will meet in the committee of the whole and form new committees,” he said. “Maybe we don’t even want committees. Maybe we want a liaison to departments, or a committee of two people. We don’t know,” he said.

Until then, the city has no ordinance to allow aldermen to meet in committees at all, Ramirez pointed out.

“We’re dissolving the committees and forming new ones, supposedly, but there’s no trust there,” Ramirez said. “We have to build trust because there’s going to be four years of this, and the mayor needs to know, if you want us to work with you, it’s going to have to start now.”


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