After months of turmoil, infighting and several heated exchanges during public meetings, Northfield trustees attempted to convey a newly formed sense of unity on Tuesday night, when the dysfunctional board approved a series of changes to the Village’s administrative team.
Embattled Village President Greg Lungmus pledged to work together with his fellow trustees “for the betterment of our village” during a short address he made at the board’s regular meeting July 18.
Lungmus has been at the center of board infighting related to multiple instances of his misconduct, including a police investigation in January and more recently, a scathing text message in which he called Trustee Charles Orth a “dumb (f word)” among other insults.
“We’ve been a divided board the last six months,” Lungmus said. “I’m going to work to remedy that. I’m hopeful that I can get everybody’s cooperation with that and that we can all come together. We were elected to do this job and there’s certainly been some rough waters the last six months, but let’s try to put that behind us.”
Despite the past incidents, Orth and Trustee Todd Fowler vocally backed Lungmus’ call for unity. While Fowler kept his comments focused on the board’s more-civil recent discussions, Orth pivoted from that path.
Orth began praising the board, saying its closed-session negotiations during a special meeting on July 10 are evidence of the trustees’ ability to come to a consensus, as well as “the resolve of the board.” The trustee’s comments then took a sharp turn as he called for a stop to criticism of the board from parts of the community.
“All you people out there, and you know who you are, you need to stop the crap with the petitions and with the comments and with the stuff that’s going on,” he said. “We have agreed as a board not to talk to the press, we’ve agreed as a board to work together and we’ve agreed as a board to move forward.”
Orth also wants the community to understand the “tremendous amount of work” trustees take on “and nobody who has never sat in this position can truly understand the depth of the work that goes on for nothing.”
“We get paid nothing. We work our butts off, we do a ton of stuff behind the scenes,” he said.
Orth later scaled back some of his statements after Northfield resident Anne Peterson criticized his remarks during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Peterson said she hadn’t planned on speaking but she wanted to address Orth’s remarks, saying that he needs to “listen back to what he said” and that his “chastisement of the residents was really shocking.”
“I think the education that you might get from training (the board announced July 10 that it will undergo formal training) will remind you that you’re not volunteers; you’re elected officials and we are the public and we hold you accountable,” she said. “And we will fill out as many petitions as we like and write as many letters and emails and comments as we like and we will not be told to knock it off.
“I think you might need to rethink the way you communicate to people. We as residents were reacting to poor behavior and what we felt like was an emergency … and people continue to react in any way they please in reaction to all of your behavior.”
In response to Peterson’s comments, Orth did apologize for his diction, saying his rhetoric was aimed at “what has transpired over the (last) day or two” from a small group of residents; however, he did not provide further details as to what he was referencing.
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Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.