Niles Village Administrator George Van Geem, who has been under fire from a majority of village trustees for several months, is leaving Niles to take a position in Skokie.
Van Geem, who joined Niles about 20 years ago as finance director and was promoted to village manager about seven years ago, will return to his career roots when he starts Dec. 10 as Skokie's finance director. He will remain in Niles through Dec. 7.
"Skokie is a great organization and I'm looking forward to working with them," Van Geem said.
He has met and worked with their village manager and department heads through municipal projects throughout the years, he said, and when the Skokie village manager called to tell him about the job opening, he realized it was a good opportunity, he said. He'll be using his core competency as a CPA, he added.
Political shifts in Niles
In the past year, the several Niles trustees have taken issue with Van Geem.
Several of them approached him in January 2012 with a buyout offer that would have given him six months of salary. Van Geem declined, saying that when his two predecessors left, they received bonuses of $100,000 and a car.
When trustees looked into that, they discovered the village board had never approved those parting gifts for village managers who left in 2002 and 2005. Instead, former mayor , instructed Van Geem, who was promoted from Niles finance director to village manager after his predecessor left, to prepare the $100,000 bonus check to his predecessor.
Trustees concerned about past mayor's actions
This touched off a firestorm in Niles village government, with trustees saying the action was improper, since the board is required to approve large expenses.
In May, when the mayor annually reappoints top village staff "with the advice and consent of trustees," Mayor Robert Callero Callero used his mayoral powers to
The trustees who voted not to reappoint Van Geem did not explain their opposition on the record, but speculation in the village centered on the theory he may have been perceived as too closely identified with Blase.
Trustee Chris Hanusiak was one of the four voting not to reappoint Van Geem. On Monday, when asked about Van Geem's departure, he said, "I look forward to the board having input into getting a new village manager and setting the qualifications for the new village manager.
"I voted not to reappoint (Van Geem), because as Trustee Hynes stated, we need to go forward in a different direction."
Trustee Rosemary Palicki, who also voted against reappointing Van Geem, said she was surprised to hear Van Geem would be leaving.
"I wish George well," she added. "I think it's a good thing for the village and I hope it's going to be a good opportunity for George."
When asked about the political shifts, Van Geem said, "Since the majority of the village board wants a new direction, they can have their chance. They can have a new direction."
Palicki said the board has not met to determine what steps it will take on finding a new village manager, but anticipated it would probably discuss the matter in closed session before its meeting tomorrow.
Mayor Robert Callero was contacted for reaction but could not be reached.