Rantoul village administrator fired

RANTOUL — The search will begin for a new Rantoul village administrator.

Bruce Sandahl has been relieved of his duties as village administrator — a job he's held since he was approved by the village board in the summer of 2008.

Mayor Chuck Smith did not give a reason for the decision to terminate Sandahl's contract but said he had the support of the village trustees.

Smith said terms of the exit have not been finalized. Ken Beth, the village attorney, said the board agreed to a five-year contact with Sandahl in 2011. Sandahl had an annual salary of $157,196.

"That contract does provide that he can be terminated by the mayor, either with or without cause," Beth said. "If it's without (cause), which is the situation here, Bruce is entitled to six months severance pay. If it's with (cause), there's no severance pay."

Sandahl said he has spent his time steering the village in what he thought was the right direction, but if that isn't the desire of residents, business people, the mayor and trustees, he said he will "move on."

"I made a commitment to the village, and I thought the village to me to help grow this village in a quality way, and I still would like to see that through," Sandahl said. "I still believe in this community and its future."

Sandahl said he came back to Rantoul because he wanted to pay the village back for its cooperation when he was with the former Rantoul Products.

As village administrator, he said, "I approached it as a business rather than a government. We made departments accountable. I thought that would work for a village and, in fact, it did."

Smith said he and Comptroller Scot Brandon will share the administrator's position until a replacement is hired.

Beth said there is "no legally established practice" for hiring a new administrator.

"Typically in the past, they've done an open search and have used a committee of some sort to narrow down the applications for the mayor and the board to consider," Beth said. "Legally, it's a mayoral appointment confirmed by the village board."

Smith said Sandahl's primary duties were "to aid the president of the village board and trustees in all work-related issues for the betterment of the community."

"He was our go-to man to make sure things happened, but he still had to answer to me, and he still had to answer to the board. He did not have carte blanche to operate in the village."

A Navy veteran, Sandahl helped to found Rantoul Products in 1984. He left Rantoul in 1996 to become a vice president for Textron Automotive. By that time, the Rantoul Products firm he helped to co-found employed more than 1,000 people at three different plants in Rantoul. He was named Rantoul Chamber of Commerce's citizen of the year in 1993.

After Smith was elected mayor in 2013, he changed some of Sandahl's administrative responsibilities. He eliminated Sandahl's oversight of the police department — an action that Smith revisited during his recent state-of-the-village address. Smith took over oversight of the police department.

Sandahl's position is expected to be a point of discussion at tonight's study session of the village board at the municipal building. A group of residents opposed to Sandahl's firing is expected to attend.

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