North Riverside Village Commons, 2401 Desplaines Ave. | File 2021

After serving as North Riverside village administrator in an acting capacity for more than a year, Sue Scarpiniti got the job on a permanent basis May 17 after trustees concurred in a 5-0 vote with Mayor Joe Mengoni’s appointment and then by the same margin approved a contract that runs through April 30, 2023.

The appointment caps a rollercoaster of a year for Scarpiniti, the village’s longtime finance director who took on the acting administrator’s job early in 2020 after the retirement of Guy Belmonte and stepped right into an unfolding pandemic, a summer of actual and threatened civil unrest and an election campaign where her pay as acting administrator became an uncomfortable central focus.

“2020 was obviously very challenging,” said Scarpiniti. “We had a very aggressive strategy that we wanted to accomplish and a direction that I wanted to achieve as acting [administrator]. And, unfortunately, the pandemic kind of put a halt on all of that. There are a lot of projects in the hopper that we were never able to discuss.”

Chief among those projects is taking a comprehensive look at staffing. While Scarpiniti overhauled her central office staff last year, much work remains in other departments.

“We’re going to be looking at all of our staffing across the board, and we’re going to be looking to moving to a professionally run administration,” Scarpiniti said. “And we’re going to be looking to try and add staff to address issues that we’re experiencing in the building department.”

But the building department, which hasn’t employed a full-time director in more than a decade, is not the only staffing conundrum.

Ehrenberg named acting police chief

Also on May 17, Mengoni announced that he had named Deputy Police Chief Christian Ehrenberg as acting police chief with Chief Carlos Garcia out on extended medical leave. It is not clear whether Garcia, who has said he plans to retire at the end of the summer, will return in any active capacity.

Mengoni said he has not yet started a search for Garcia’s replacement, but added he has talked to the department’s command staff and sergeants to get feedback and input.

The village’s public works department is also losing its longtime director, Tim Kutt, who confirmed he’s retiring effective Sept. 30. Scarpiniti also revealed that the department’s water supervisor, Ed Durec, is also retiring.

And, of course, Scarpiniti hopes to find a new finance director as the village heads into the home stretch of its budget process in the next month or so. The village’s new fiscal year began on May 1. Public budget workshops are slated for mid-June and the appropriations ordinance for the 2021-21 fiscal year must be passed by the end of July.

Mengoni said he always believed that if he was elected mayor this spring that he would appoint Scarpiniti to the administrator’s post.

“No doubt in my mind, and I think the rest of the board pretty much felt the same way,” said Mengoni. “She knows everything about this village and we want to keep that consistency going. … I think she’ll be a great person to mentor and work with the new finance director.”

Scarpiniti’s new contract calls for her to be paid a salary of $185,000, plus another $7,500 a year the village will pay into a deferred compensation plan. She gets 26 vacation days and six paid days off per year, and the village will provide her with a vehicle and $1,200 annually as a cellphone stipend.

New village attorney appointed

Trustees also voted 5-0 to appoint the law firm of Peterson Johnson Murray as the village’s new legal counsel, with Kevin Kearney serving as the firm’s main attorney for North Riverside.

Mengoni said he knows one of the firm’s partners, Paul A. O’Grady, and has used his services in the past. O’Grady was re-elected in April as Orland Township supervisor and formerly served as chairman of Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart’s Cook blue-ribbon committee on internal affairs.

Illinois State Board of Elections records show that O’Grady contributed $873.60 in March to the political committee of North Riverside United Party, which slated Mengoni for mayor in the 2021 election.

The new firm replaces Odelson, Sterk, Murphey, Frazier & McGrath, which had served as the village’s legal counsel since 2013.