By Bob Uphues
Staffing changes announced in early March by former Brookfield Village Manager Keith Sbiral appear to have been a contributing factor in his departure later that month, the Landmark has learned.
In a lengthy email from Sbiral to village staff dated March 6, the former manager announced a series of changes that reportedly troubled elected officials, who had not been apprised of the changes ahead of time.
The Landmark obtained Sbiral's email through a Freedom of Information request after at first asking about apparent staff promotions that had been made, but which hadn't been announced publicly.
"There was universal concern," said Village President Kit Ketchmark, regarding the memo. "It was at my urging that he meet with the board. I was concerned immediately about this."
Among the changes announced in the memo was the promotion of Theresa Coady, the longtime administrative assistant to the village manager, to assistant village manager.
The village had been without an assistant village manager since Sbiral was elevated to the manager's post in 2014.
"Theresa has been with this organization for over 19 years," Sbiral wrote. "She may in fact know the inner workings, filing and operations better than anyone."
Sbiral stated in the memo that he was promoting Coady in order to shift his role from handling day-to-day duties to "'conducting this orchestra' to do more strategic planning and implementation."
Stepping into the administrative assistant's role was Megan Shilney, who previously was the assistant to the director of public works. Margie Villalobos, who formerly worked the front counter at village hall, stepped into Shilney's old role in public works. Villalobos' old front desk position remains vacant.
Sbiral's email also stated that Village Planner Emily Egan was "stepping into a promoted role of leading all 'current development' aspects" of the Community and Economic Development Department, freeing department director Nicholas Greifer to focus his efforts on outreach to the Brookfield business community and economic development.
Asked if any of the promotions or job shifts entailed increases in salary, Ketchmark said, "None of the salaries changed." Asked whether there were job descriptions for the new positions, Ketchmark said, "As far as responsibilities, I don't know the answer."
The email also addressed the Brookfield Recreation Department, but in a way that surely ran counter to Ketchmark's hopes for its future.
Noting that Mary Pezdek, the department's longtime program coordinator, was retiring, Sbiral announced that the department's other employee, Arlene Rovner, would be reporting in the future to Greifer.
As far as the future of the department itself, Sbiral stated in the memo that he was "currently talking to the village of Riverside to see if there is an intergovernmental cooperation that we could reach to expand services for both communities. This may or may not end in a monetary savings, but the goal here would be to expand the offerings and depth of our department."
Ketchmark has publicly stated on two occasions since the start of 2018 that he'd like to see the village invest more resources in the recreation department, including appointing a director to lead it. The recreation department has been without a full-fledged director for the past 15 years.
In addition, Ketchmark disagreed with Sbiral's plan for finding a replacement for Fire Chief Patrick Lenzi, who had originally said he would leave on April 6, but will now stay until April 27.
Sbiral's email indicated he wanted to hire a consulting firm, reportedly at a cost of $6,000, to lead the search. Ketchmark said Lenzi's retirement was not a secret internally and expressed disappointment that more hadn't been done by the beginning of March to secure Lenzi's successor.
That search is now being handled in-house with four internal candidates identified, said Ketchmark. He said Lenzi's replacement could be announced as early as April 23.
Ketchmark said that whoever is hired to replace Sbiral as village manager will need to sort through the staffing issues and design a cohesive organizational structure.
"I think the new manager will need to bring clarity to what these roles are," Ketchmark said.