Niles fires senior official
Seth Knobel, now-former Director of Family Services, speaks at the annual Niles Mayoral Address and Luncheon in 2012, with Village Manager George Van Geem looking on. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun Times Media
Updated: April 29, 2013 2:15AM
The Village of Niles fired one of its senior officials at a special meeting last week, claiming that he exhibited “questionable business practices.
But the attorney for Seth Knobel, the former Director of Family Services for the Village of Niles who Mayor Robert Callero recently removed from his position, says politics is to blame.
“We don’t really know the real reason,” said Edward Feldman, Knobel’s attorney. “It’s some sort of politics.”
“They never talked to Seth,” said Feldman, who said the village did not speak with Knobel before removing him from his position.
At a 10-minute special board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19, Callero explained that he let go of Knobel due to “questionable business practices.”
Callero said village employees and their spouses and families are supposed to receive free services from Niles Family Services under the village code, but that Knobel was instead charging many employees and their families for these services.
At the same meeting on Feb. 19, Callero also named Kelly Mickle, the director of the Niles Senior Center, the acting director of family services.
“He didn’t have practices of collecting any money from the workers,” said Feldman. “They claim to have done an investigation, but we doubt they’ve done much of an investigation.”
In a written statement, Feldman said, “The village was aware of and agreed to his practices, which were legitimate. Moreover, last week the village admitted that the Mayor’s decision to part ways with Mr. Knobel ‘is not based on the outcome of our investigation of the underlying facts involved.’”
The statement said Knobel “devoted 12 years of faithful service to the Village of Niles.” At the closing of the statement, it added, “This is no way to treat a dedicated public servant.”
“They have not shared much information with us,” Feldman said of the village.
Village trustees were given the opportunity to make a motion to override Callero’s decision to let go of Knobel, but no trustees chose to.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Village Trustee Joseph LoVerde, following the Feb. 19 meeting. “It seems like the words “investigation” and “Niles” go hand in hand.”
Annunzio said that by law, Callero must hold the special open meeting whenever he removes an appointed official, such as a director of a village department.
“We’ll let the investigation play out and see what the outcome is,” said LoVerde.