Glencoe Park District executive director Don Van Arsdale resigns
Don Van Arsdale, Glencoe Park District executive director, at a May 15 district board meeting in which a case of a lost child was discussed. | Irv Leavitt ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 28, 2012 1:21PM
Don Van Arsdale, the sometimes-embattled executive director of the Glencoe Park District, resigned Wednesday, effective that day, the district officially announced.
Park Board Member Max Retsky, elected president of the Board June 19, said this afternoon, “I was surprised as the next guy when I got the e-mail last night” from Van Arsdale, informing her of his decision.
“They asked him to resign,” Retsky’s fellow commissioner Hilary Lee said later, refusing to name those doing the asking.
“It’s very upsetting. I’ve never been through anything like this.
“I think it’s a sad day for Glencoe. He’ll be missed greatly.”
Retsky said recently that she has had a problem with Van Arsdale since he was first hired, and he loaned the district money to renovate the Glencoe house it allowed him to live in.
Board members have had several other recent difficulties with Van Arsdale, including a criticism that he did not inform parents or Board members quickly enough after a lost-child incident at Reinsdorf Field in May.
While Van Arsdale’s popularity with Retsky, as well as her fellow commissioners Trent Cornell and Andre Lerman, has been less than solid, he has enjoyed more support from commissioners Lee and Robert Kimble.
“I think Don has done an exemplary job as an executive director, and I’m saddened,” Kimble said today. “I’m saddened for the park district and I’m saddened for the community.”
He said that during the Van Arsdale tenure, the district has started to grow beyond just being a district catering mainly to kids into one that has tried to reach out to patrons of all ages. “We’re not finished yet; we’re not even half finished, but we’re on the way.”
He said that Retsky herself has aided in that transition, but he complained last year that she had been too involved in discussions with Van Arsdale and other staff members, circumventing the Board. Retsky said last week that she accepted the criticism, and has tried to back off.
After the announcement, Cornell and Lerman did not return calls. Van Arsdale was also unavailable.
A district press release late Wednesday morning quoted Van Arsdale saying, “It was been a real pleasure working with you (staff members) these past three years. I admire and hold each of you in the highest of esteem.”
Steven Nagel, the district’s director of operations, “has been designated as the staff member to handle inquires or questions on behalf of the Park District until an interim Executive Director is formally selected,” at a special Board meeting at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 28 at the Takiff Center, 999 Green Bay Road.
Retsky said in the release, “We thank Don for his three years of service to the Glencoe Park District and wish him the best in his future endeavors. The Glencoe Park District is very fortunate to have very competent and experienced department heads to keep operations thriving while we search for a new Executive Director.”
Nagel, on the staff for over a year, has been in the forefront of many district efforts.
“I think Steve is a great guy,” Kimble said. “One of Don’s strengths is his ability to hire good people, and Steve is one of them.”
The June 28 special meeting was set by Board members during a closed session following a June 19 regular Board meeting. Retsky said last week the special meeting would involve “the executive director,” including a requirement that rent be charged for the house Van Arsdale occupies at district expense.
Van Arsdale’s situation may have become shakier earlier this year, as the Board quietly asked the district lawyer to draft an opinion on whether a sentence in his contract was valid, according to sources. That sentence requires a two-thirds vote — four commissioners instead of three — to fire him for “convenience” (not for cause).
The lawyer said the district only needed three votes.
If such an action would have been taken, the district would have to pay at least three months’ severance, according to the agreement. Nothing seems to be owed in the case of a resignation, but a settlement could change that, or already has. Retsky declined comment on whether one has been discussed.
Van Arsdale had served as executive director of the Winnetka Community House for 19 years, until signing a Glencoe contract in late May, 2009.
It called for a starting salary of $115,000, plus a $500 monthly car allowance, and the use of the house.