WESTERN SPRINGS, IL — With questions over appointments in Western Springs, Patch decided to take a look at whether the Village Board properly hired Village Manager Ingrid Velkme in 2017.

In a June 26, 2017, meeting, the board unanimously voted for a contract to hire Velkme starting in August of that year.

Recently, Patch found that Western Springs has sworn in at least five officials since last year without getting board approval, contrary to the village code.

Velkme does not fall in that category.

A review of meeting videos and minutes in 2017 showed that the Village Board appeared to have decided on Velkme as the new manager even before her predecessor, Patrick Higgins, publicly announced his retirement.

Higgins served as manager since 2000 and served in various administrative positions in the village’s government going back to 1977.

At the Village Board’s June 20, 2017, meeting, Higgins publicly announced his retirement, effective Aug. 18, 2017.

Then Village President Alice Gallagher, who took office about a month before, said Higgins’ retirement was discussed in closed session a week earlier. In that same session, she said, Velkme was interviewed for the position. At the time, Velkme was the deputy village manager and director of administrative services. She started with the village in 1987, left in 1991 and returned in 2000.

At the meeting, Gallagher praised Velkme and detailed her work history. She did not say the board had voted on Velkme as the new manager in closed session. Such a vote behind closed doors would have violated the Open Meetings Act. But Gallagher indicated the board had settled on her.

She said the board determined a national search for a manager would take too long and be too costly. It would also stop the village’s progress in the transition, she said.

“So Deputy Village Manager Ingrid Velkme has expressed an interest in taking on the role of village manager,” Gallagher said. “That would be a smooth transition. It would not be a disruption or distraction to staff. And we could hit the ground running.”

During the interview, Gallagher said, Velkme impressed the board with her knowledge, experience, talent, composure, leadership qualities and ideas.

“So because of these reasons, we hope to offer Ingrid a contract for village manager and we hope she will accept,” Gallagher said.

At the time, the Chicago Tribune reported that Gallagher said Velkme was the only candidate interviewed. Gallagher did not say that in her speech, but she may have said it in an outside interview.

Asked whether the board decided on Velkme in a closed meeting, village attorney Michael Jurusik, who attended the 2017 meetings, said in an email this week, “The Village Board does not take final action in closed meeting sessions.”

The rules of replying:

  • Be respectful. This is a space for friendly local discussions. No racist, discriminatory, vulgar or threatening language will be tolerated.
  • Be transparent. Use your real name, and back up your claims.
  • Keep it local and relevant. Make sure your replies stay on topic.
  • Review the Patch Community Guidelines.