Kelley Gandurski (City photo)

With a 7-1 vote, City Council members on Sept. 20 appointed Kelley Gandurski interim City Manager. She will take office Oct. 9 and remain there until a permanent City Manager is selected, at which point she can return to her position as Deputy City Manager. Council members Thomas Suffredin, 6th Ward, and Bobby Burns, 5th Ward, did not attend the meeting in person but called in their vote. First Ward Council member Clare Kelley’s was the lone “no” vote. Eighth Ward Council member Devon Reid neither attended the meeting nor cast a vote on the measure. 

Gandurski was hired to lead the City’s Law Department as corporation counsel/city attorney in March 2020 and joined the City Manager’s office in April 2021. Current City Manager Erika Storlie has resigned effective Oct. 8.

During public comment, several of Gandurski’s former colleagues spoke in favor of the appointment, noting her integrity and her ability as a lawyer and manager.

Former Chicago colleagues endorse Gandurski

Marcus Martinez said he had worked with Gandurski “for three years at the City of Chicago Department of Law. She was my direct supervisor. When she arrived, she professionalized the division. She was a dynamic attorney. She challenged difficult judges and held them accountable. She expected us to be effective; we became better for it. You can’t do better for a City Manager than Kelley Gandurski. She does the things that are necessary. And she finds a way. I can honestly say I’m a better advocate because of her.”

On the local front, however, all residents who spoke on the issue urged the Council not to appoint Gandurski. While none questioned her leadership ability or integrity, each appeared to have the same concern: that Gandurski would likely be a subject of the investigation into the lakefront sex-abuse scandal.

“I don’t know Miss Gandurski,” said First Ward resident Genevieve Purvis, “but in my opinion, that is not relevant, and I can’t speak to her qualifications. But no one who is potentially a subject of the lakefront investigation itself should be in a position to [oversee] that investigation. And it’s as simple as that, and brings it and also applies to council committees, and its ethics 101.”

Elliott Zashin, a member of Community Alliance for a Better Government, which issued a statement last week opposing the appointment of Gandurski, said at the Sept. 20 meeting, “I regret the necessity of offering our opinion again on the appointment of Kelley Gandurski to the position of Interim City Manager. Last week, members of the CABG offered a critique of this appointment and made suggestions for alternatives. It appears that the Council will make a final decision tonight to approve the appointment. … As I said last week, only a selection process for the permanent position of City Manager that is transparent and includes significant public involvement will restore public confidence in our City government. This may well be the most important decision that the Council and Mayor will make in their present term. I urge you to do it right.”

Debate on Removal Clause

While the vote was straightforward, getting to the question – ultimately called by Fourth Ward Council member Jonathan Nieuwsma – took some time.

Kelly asked that the clause mandating a seven-person vote to remove Gandurski be stricken. That clause, which tracks the current City Code for removing the City Manager, had rankled some residents and CABG as well.

City Council member Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, suggested that the language for removal not specify the number of votes but say the number would be that in the City Code.

Mayor Daniel Biss said he felt uncomfortable with the process, which was essentially negotiating Gandurski’s contract in public and without her lawyer present. Second Ward Council member Peter Braithwaite asked Deputy City Attorney Michelle Ozuruigbo whether the motion was proper.

Ozuruigbo said, “Regarding the negotiation of contract, I would agree that I don’t think that would be proper to negotiate in this setting.”

Biss said he believed, though, that Kelly’s motion to amend the contract was proper. That motion, with the language Fleming suggested, failed.

The 7-1 vote to approve the contract finally came about an hour into the meeting.

Under the terms of the contract, her annual base salary will be $173,000 plus a 15% temporary duty assigned (total amount of $198,950). Fringe benefits, such as pension fund participation, health and dental insurance, life insurance and car allowance will remain the same. In addition, the City “agrees to allow Gandurski to continue in her capacity as an administrative adjudication officer for Will County twice a month so long as it does not interfere with the duties and responsibilities prescribed herein.” As with the City Manager, the interim City Manager can be removed from office by a vote of seven or more City Council members, in accordance with Section 1-8-1 of the City Code.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...