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Meena Beyers, Brookfield’s village planner, has resigned, Village Manager Riccardo Ginex confirmed today. Her last day on the job will be April 15.

“This was a total surprise,” said Ginex, who added he believes Beyers is leaving to take another position elsewhere and that the village had no intention of letting her go. “I think the staff and village board feel it’s a critical position.”

A phone message left for Beyers at village hall was not immediately returned.

In light of the village’s strained financial condition, however, Ginex said that the planner position will not immediately be filled.

“For the time being, for the next six months, we’re not going to fill it,” Ginex said. “Then we’ll re-evaluate it at that point. I’d like to fill it, but I think it’s a smart move not to move on that position right away.”

Beyers and the planner position specifically have been held up by critics and political opponents of President Michael Garvey’s administration as an example of wasteful spending. Critics claimed there was no need for a village planner during an economic downturn in which there was little being planned for residential and commercial properties.

With the village threatening to lay off police officers and firefighters, some wondered how the village could maintain a planner on the payroll. According to Ginex, Beyers salary was $70,500 per year. She also had medical and dental insurance through the village worth about $16,000.

That finger-pointing played a role in Beyers’ departure, said Assistant Village Manager Keith Sbiral, who as director of the building and planning department was her immediate supervisor.

“Given the environment here I don’t blame her; I’m certainly not surprised someone would not want to work in that environment,” Sbiral said.

Sbiral also said the silence that met calls for Beyers’ removal on the part of village trustees and some staff may have also played a part in her decision to leave.

“I’m sure it had a role,” Sbiral said. “If you think the comments online, in letters to the editor and at board meetings were bad, you should hear what comes over the counter at village hall.”

Ginex, too, said he was surprised by the personal nature of the apparent animosity towards Beyers and the position.

“I’ve never seen it personalized in any organization or targeted at specific staff except in this community,” Ginex said. “Who are they going to target next? If the economy doesn’t come back, are we not going to have any managers at all?”

Sbiral said he believes that it’s a mistake not to fill the planner’s position.

“From a standpoint of a professional economic development process I’ve been trying to create for four years, it takes an enormous step backward in not rehiring this position,” Sbiral said. “If you look at the goals set forth four years ago, we’ve accomplished a huge amount of them and we were on the cusp of accomplishing most of them.”

Beyers’ position has been a lightning rod since 2008, when she first announced she was leaving to take a job with the Illinois Housing Development Authority. But just a month after leaving Brookfield, she had second thoughts about the new gig and wound up back in Brookfield as the recession gained momentum.

A month later, the village was warning of staff layoffs and service cutbacks. Several positions were cut in early 2009 in public works, the fire department, police department and village hall. Later in the year, Ginex eliminated the position of director of public works and deputy police chief. Beyers survived those layoffs.

When the village threatened laying off a firefighter in late 2009 and two police officers in 2010 during contract negotiations, the spotlight again turned on Beyers, with critics demanding her job be sacrificed.

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